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On Wednesday, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced the successful launch of the first of three new "next generation Tracking and Data Relay Satellites" about an Atlas V rocket operated by the United Launch Alliance between Boeing (NYSE: BA ) and Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT ) .
Designated TDRS-K, the Boeing-built satellite is designed to provide "essential communications to support space exploration," including "tracking, telemetry, command and high-bandwidth data return services for numerous science and human exploration missions orbiting Earth."
Two further launches are planned in this series: TDRS-L, which is scheduled to launch in 2014, followed by TDRS-M, which will be built by 2015 and launched subsequently.