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6 Ways NASA Space Communications Connect Astronauts to Earth

1. When Astronauts Phone Home, the Space Network Answers 

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Operated by our Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, this communications system enables all types of Earth-to-astronaut communication.  The Space Network is a complex system of ground station terminals and satellites. The satellites, called ‘Tracking and Data Relay Satellites’ or TDRS, provide continuous communications for human spaceflight 24/7/365. The information this network relays includes astronaut communication with Mission Control in Houston, posting live video of spacewalks and live interviews with schools, even posting Tweets on Twitter and doing Facebook posts. The Space Network can even broadcast live 4K, ultra-HD video right from the station. You can now watch an astronaut eat a space taco in high definition. WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE!

2. The Space Network Also Communicates Science Data 

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Astronauts on the Space Station perform experiments on the station that will enable our Journey to Mars and other future human space missions. For example, astronaut Peggy Whitson works on a bone cell study that could lead to better preventative care or therapeutic treatments for people suffering bone loss as a result of bone diseases like osteopenia and osteoporosis, or for patients on prolonged bed rest. All that fantastic data is sent back to Earth via our Space Network for scientists around the world to analyze and build on.

3. The Space Network Transmits Spacecraft Health Data

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The Space Network not only lets us communicate with the astronauts, it also tracks the ‘health’ of the spacecraft, be it the International Space Station where the astronauts are living, a cargo vehicle servicing the space station, or even, in the near future, crewed vehicles to other worlds. We deliver data on a spacecraft’s state of health, from power generation levels and avionics status to carbon dioxide and oxygen levels, and more to Mission Control 24/7/365.

4. The Space Network Helps Monitor Spacecraft Location

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The International Space Station Is pretty big, but space is bigger. The Space Network enables flight controllers on the ground to provide a GPS-type service for the Space Station, letting them track the exact location of the space station at all times as it orbits the Earth. It also allows us Earth-bound folk to get real-time text updates when the Space Station is flying overhead. If you want to track the station, sign up here: https://spotthestation.nasa.gov

5. The Space Network Supports Launch Vehicles

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Goddard’s Space Network also controls all the communications for all the missions that go to the space station. That includes command and telemetry services during launches, free flight, berthing and un-berthing to the station, as well as re-entry and landing back to Earth. 

6. The Space Network Is Also Looking Toward the Future

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It’s also helping to test vehicles that will carry astronauts to other worlds. Currently, they are working with teams for our Space Launch System and commercial crew vehicles. The first flights for these vehicles will occur in 2018 and 2019, setting us on the road to Journey to Mars! This image shows the Orion capsule that will aid in our continuous march into space. 

What’s Next for the Space Network? 

We’re continuing to grow! Watch out for the launch of a new TDRS spacecraft in August 2017! TDRS-M is coming. Check out more info here and join our countdown to TDRS launch: https://tdrs.gsfc.nasa.gov

Source: NASA

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6 Ways NASA Space Communications Connect Astronauts to Earth

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