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NASA today launched the latest in a series of satellites aimed at ensuring astronauts at the International Space Station can communicate with Earth. The $408 million Boeing-made Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-M) soared into space atop an Atlas V rocket that launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 8:29 am (1229 GMT). The satellite will "support critical space communication into the mid-2020s," NASA said in a statement. The satellite will facilitate space-to-ground communication for NASA's low-Earth orbit operations, "ensuring scientists, engineers and control room staff can readily access data for missions like the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station." TDRS-M is the last of 13 such satellites that have been launched since 1983. An antenna on the satellite was damaged last month at a processing facility in Titusville, Florida.
The satellite was repaired, but the mishap set the launch back by about two weeks.