"News about the USAP, the Ice, and the People"
United States Antarctic Program United States Antarctic Program Logo National Science Foundation Logo

TDRS history

NASA satellite boasts many communication firsts at the poles

NASA’s External U.S. government site original Tracking and Data Relay Satellite External U.S. government site (TDRS-1) launched from the Space Shuttle External U.S. government site Challenger in April 1983.

TDRS-1 began life by opening a new era in NASA satellite communications. It tracked low Earth-orbiting satellites, enabling NASA to issues commands and receive telemetry through most of their orbit.

Working solo, TDRS-1 provided more communication coverage in support of the September 1983 Shuttle mission than the entire network of NASA tracking stations had provided in all previous Shuttle missions.

TDRS-1 firsts include:

  • First satellite used to support Kennedy Space Center External U.S. government site launches in the early 1990s, returning real time telemetry.
  • Closed the zone of communications exclusion over the Indian Ocean, providing 100 percent coverage of the Space Shuttle and low inclination orbiting satellites via the TDRS constellation.
  • First connection to the Internet, and the first live Web cast from the North Pole, using TDRS-1 (recorded in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not).
  • First Pole-to-Pole phone call using TDRS-1 to connect to the South Pole and Iridium for the North Pole (recorded in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and Guinness World Records in April 1999).

Due to increasing orbit inclination, TDRS-1 was the first satellite able to see both Poles. In cooperation with the National Science Foundation (NSF) External U.S. government site, an uplink/downlink station for TDRS-1 was installed in January 1998 at South Pole Station External U.S. government site.

Return to main story: Keeping connected.