CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA has launched the last of its longtime tracking and communication satellites.
The end of the era came with Friday morning's liftoff of TDRS-M (T-driss-M), the 13th satellite that's part of the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite network.
An unmanned Atlas V rocket provided the lift from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
NASA has been launching TDRS satellites since 1983. The 22,300-mile-high constellation links ground controllers with the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope and other low-orbiting craft.
This newest satellite cost $408 million. The price tag jumps to $540 million with the rocket.
The flight was delayed two weeks after a crane hit one of the satellite's antennas last month. Satellite maker Boeing replaced the damaged antenna and took corrective action to prevent future accidents. Worker error was blamed.
On Wednesday, the SpaceX Dragon capsule launched Monday from Kennedy Space Center arrived at the ISS with 6,400 pounds of supplies and science experiments.
Station astronauts Jack Fischer and Paolo Nespoli snared the Dragon with a 58-foot robotic arm at 6:52 a.m., as the spacecraft flew over the Pacific Ocean near New Zealand.
The Dragon launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 12:31 p.m. Monday.
Minutes after liftoff, the rocket’s first-stage booster flew back to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for a landing on legs, making the rocket available for another launch.
The Dragon is expected to remain at the station for about a month before returning with science samples to a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
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