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NASA Launches Tracking And Data Relay Satellites With Atlas V Rocket

Update Date: Jan 24, 2014 10:02 AM EST

NASA announced that the latest NASA satellite has been successfully launched and has been placed into orbit. The satellites were launched last night atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. 

The launch was held at Space Launch Complex-41. 

United Launch Alliance (ULA) said the launch was the first of 15 planned launches scheduled of this year, adding that it was the 78th launch in the seven years after it came into business. 

"This capability is analogous to standing at the top of the Empire State Building and tracking an ant as it marches its way down the sidewalk in front of the building," Boeing program director Andy Kopito told reporters during a prelaunch press conference at the Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, according to DNA

The satellite, that has been named TDRS and is the 12th built for a NASA constellation that circles more than 35,888 km above earth. 

Out of twelve, eight remain in orbit, while two were decommissioned and were incinerates as they fell back in the atmosphere of Earth. The Another satellite was destroyed in the 1986 space shuttle Challenger accident. 

The space agency has ordered a 13th and final TDRS satellite to check for the network can operate through 2030.

NASA has paid a combined $715 million for the TDRS satellite that was launched on Thursday. 

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