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Published:January 28th, 2013 22:48 EST

NASA Satellites Last Much Longer than Expected

By John Pustelnik

The sixth Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-6) celebrated it`s anniversary on January 13th. After being launched into space 20 years ago, the TDRS-6 is still orbiting the Earth, 10 years longer than expected.

The TDRS-6 was launched into space in 1993 by NASA`s space shuttle Endeavor in order to provide constant communications between them and their low Earth-orbiting missions.


TDRS satellites are also responsible for transmitting pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope to Earth, as well as various media from the International Space Station, such as pictures and television.

The TDRS-6 is not the only satellite to continue to operate past its expected life cycle. TDRS-1 orbited the Earth 17 years longer than expected before it was decommissioned in 2010. TDRS-4 lasted 12 years longer than expected before being decommissioned in 2011. TDRS-3 and 5 are still orbiting. Each were expected to be decommissioned over a decade ago.

Although launched by NASA, the satellites are made by Northrop Grumman Space Systems, a corporation that specializes in engineering aerospace systems.

"TDRS satellites have set a new standard for long life and reliability," said Jeff Grant, sector vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman Space Systems. "Their on-orbit performance has moved science and technology forward to support the nation."

(Image: TDRS-6 launching from the Endeavor in 1993.)
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