Editor's note: NASA's Tracking & Data Relay Satellite network provides the main communications link between ATV Control Centre in Toulouse, France, and the ATV vessels in orbit. This launch will directly assist ESA and CNES mission controllers to remain in contact with ATV-4.
The first of NASA's three next-generation Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS), known as TDRS-K, launched at 02:48 CET Thursday, 31 January, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
"TDRS-K bolsters our network of satellites that provides essential communications to support space exploration," said Badri Younes, deputy associate administrator for Space Communications and Navigation at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "It will improve the overall health and longevity of our system."
The TDRS system provides tracking, telemetry, command and high-bandwidth data return services for numerous science and human exploration missions orbiting Earth. These include the International Space Station and NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
... and a great pic!