Tracking and Data Relay Satellite


Display Status:

This object is on display in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

Tracking and Data Relay Satellite

Collection Item Summary:

During the first decades of the Space Age, NASA required a worldwide network of ground stations to communicate with satellites and human-operated spacecraft. The Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) system, a constellation of three spacecraft placed into geosynchronous orbit beginning in 1983, was designed to replace this expensive, far-flung system. Positioned equidistant in orbit, they provide nearly continuous contact with spacecraft in low Earth orbit-an especially crucial capability for ensuring the safety of Space Shuttle crews. A TDRS transmits both voice and data communications. Under optimum conditions, it can transfer in a second the equivalent of a 20-volume encyclopedia.

This artifact is a high-fidelity model built by Design Models, Inc., under the direction of TRW, which manufactured the first several TDRS spacecraft. TRW donated the model in 1986.

Collection Item Long Description:

Inventory Number


Credit Line

Gift of TRW, Inc.

Country of Origin

United States of America


Wood, glass, capton, plastic


Overall (antennas and solar arrays deployed): 14 ft. tall x 43 ft. wide x 57 ft. deep, 1800 lb. (426.7 x 1310.6 x 1737.4cm, 816.5kg)

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum

Restrictions & Rights

Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum


MODELS-Unmanned Spacecraft & Parts