Feature Story


After arriving at Los Angeles International Airport from the satellite development center, the TDRS L satellite is loaded onto a C-17 transport plane. A team of experts in transportation, rigging, quality, security, safety and logistics ensure the satellite is safely loaded and protected in the container for its flight to Florida.

A satellite's journey coast to coast

The containerization process for the TDRS-L took two days. This time lapse video from Boeing’s satellite facility in El Segundo, Calif. gets it done in less than a minute.

Late in the night on December 5, a large truck moved the second of three scheduled Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS) out of the El Segundo-based satellite factory to Los Angeles International Airport where it was loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III for the next step in the journey to its launch in January. The, TDRS L, follows TDRS K, launched in January 2013, and will be followed by TDRS M, which will be ready for delivery in 2015.

A group of behind-the-scenes employees in the Boeing launch operations organization is responsible for the safe transport of the satellite. The Boeing team works with the California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles World Airports to carefully orchestrate the move from the factory to the airport. Additionally, the United State Air Force provides the aircraft and logistics support.

“We engineer the container to provide as much protection as physically possible,” said Ron Pedersen, senior manager of Civil, Commercial and Military launches for Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems. “We have step-by-step detailed procedures and a qualified team who is certified to handle the container and spacecraft.”

TDRS L has successfully completed all environmental, functional and performance tests, including vibration and acoustic tests and final flight functional testing. After arrival in Cape Canaveral, Fla., it will complete its final integration and test and be prepared for launch.

The TDRS L satellite


The TDRS L satellite arrived in Florida and was lifted out of the container at Astrotech Space Operations, the processing facility where the satellite will undergo functional testing, encapsulation in the launch vehicle, followed by movement to the launch pad and finally, launch in January 2014.

More about TDRS satellites

The TDRS satellites incorporate a modern design based on flight-proven performance. The steerable, single-access antennas can simultaneously transmit and receive at S-band and either Ku- or Ka-band, supporting dual independent, two-way communication. The 15-foot diameter antennas are designed with flexible membrane reflectors that stow for launch before springing back into their original parabolic shape on orbit.