On January 13, 1993, Tracking and Data Relay Satellite 6 (TDRS-6), the American communications satellite launched by Space Shuttle Endeavour. TDRS-6 is still operational today, well past its intended design life”.

Today’s (January 13) story of what happened this day in Science, Technology, Astronomy, and Space Exploration history.

TDRS-6 launch on January 13, 1993
 TDRS-6, known before launch as TDRS-F, is an American communications satellite that is operated by NASA as part of the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System. It was constructed by TRW, the American corporation involved in a variety of businesses, mainly aerospace, automotive, and credit reporting – now known as Northrop Grumman. It was deployed from Space Shuttle Endeavour during the Space Transportation System 54 (STS-54) mission in 1993. The TDRS-6 is based on a custom satellite bus that was used for all seven first-generation TDRS satellites.
TDRS-6 in space
 TDRS-6 is the sixth satellite in the first generation of TDRS spacecraft. As of January 13, 2018, it is fifteen years beyond its planned mission life. Since being launched by the Space Shuttle Endeavour, TDRS-6 has not only transmitted stunning images of the Universe and the Solar System from the Hubble Space Telescope to Earth, but has also delivered pictures, television, voice, and data from the International Space Station. TRW, now known as Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, CA, built the first seven satellites as a subcontractor to the Space Communications Company in the 1980s and early 1990s. TDRS is part of the Space Network and has been an integral part of supporting many missions.


TDRS-6 is the sixth satellite in the first generation of TDRS spacecraft. “TDRS” is the acronym for “Tracking and Data Relay Satellite”. Started in the early 1970s, TDRS comprises the space segment of the Space Network. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center manages the development and operations of the TDRS spacecraft. TDRS can provide near-constant communication links between the ground and orbiting satellites.

The current Tracking and Data Relay Satellite configuration consists of nine in-orbit satellites (four first-generation, three second-generation, and two third-generation satellites) distributed to provide near-continuous information relay service to missions like the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and the International Space Station.

The last Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, TDRS-M launched in August 2017. Once it is accepted into the Space Network in early 2018, the TDRS configuration will grow to include 10 in-orbit satellites.

First Generation Tracking Data Relay Satellite (TDRS)

  • TDRS-A (TDRS-1) – Launched April 04, 1983; Retired Fall 2009; Disposal June 2010
  • TDRS-B – Destroyed on January 28, 1986, in the Challenger explosion
  • TDRS-C (TDRS-3) – Launched September 29, 1988
  • TDRS-D (TDRS-4) – Launched March 13, 1989; Retired December 2011; Disposal April 2012
  • TDRS-E (TDRS-5) – Launched August 02, 1991
  • TDRS-F (TDRS-6) – Launched January 13, 1993
  • TDRS-G (TDRS-7) – Launched July 13, 1995

Second Generation Tracking Data Relay Satellite (TDRS)

  • TDRS-H (TDRS-8) – Launched June 30, 2000
  • TDRS-I (TDRS-9) – Launched March 8, 2002
  • TDRS-J (TDRS-10) – Launched December 4, 2002


M. Özgür Nevres

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