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NASA 'Space Network' receives boost from satellite

NASA launched a new communication satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Wednesday evening. This satellite is one of three expected to reach space between now and 2015, upgrading the agency's communication network. 

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An Atlas 5 rocket carrying NASA's TDRS-K next-generation satellite launches from a pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 8:48 p.m. ET on Jan. 30, 2013.

NASA TV

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A next-generation NASA relay satellite was launched into orbit Wednesday (Jan. 30) on a mission to upgrade a vital communications network linking the space agency to its spacecraft orbiting the Earth.

The U.S. space agency's first launch of 2013, the new Tracking and Data Relay Satellite K (TDRS-K for short) soared spaceward atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 8:48 p.m. EST (0148 Jan. 31 GMT).

"We have a customer that's quite thrilled right now to have a healthy satellite on orbit," Tim Dunn the TDRS-K flight director said in a NASA TV interview after the launch.

The TDRS-K satellite is bound for an orbit 22,300 miles (35,888 kilometers) above Earth, where it will join a constellation of five other satellites currently in orbit to help NASA and other space agencies stay in touch with orbiting spacecraft.

NASA's TDRS communications network began in 1983 and has not received an upgrade since 2002, when the space agency launched its 10th TDRS satellite. Five satellites are currently in use today, with the TDRS-K launch adding one more that number, mission managers said. [Launch Photos: NASA's TDRS-K Satellite Blasts Off]

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