First of a new generation of satellites sent into orbit

The first of a new generation of NASA communications satellites has been put into orbit, designed to support the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope and other spacecraft.

The unmanned Atlas 5 rocket set off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station just before 9pm Wednesday evening (01:48 GMT today), in the first of 13 planned launches this year.

Today's launch was the first of 13 launches this year Credit: NASA

The Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) will be placed 22,300 miles (35,900 km) above the planet, joining a wider network that tracks rocket launches and communications, to and from space stations.

The spacecraft will take about ten days to reach its intended orbit, with an additional three months before it is put into service.