NASA announced the launch of a third-generation communications satellite to enhance the network that links ground controllers with the International Space Station and orbiting research platforms.

The TDRS-L was vaulted into space by an Atlas 5 rocket that lifted off Thursday night from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

"TDRS-L and the entire TDRS fleet provide a vital service to America's space program by supporting missions that range from Earth-observation to deep space discoveries," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said.

Seven first-generation of TDRS satellites were launched in 1983-1995, followed by three 2G spacecraft in 2000-2002.

"This launch ensures continuity of services for the many missions that rely on the system every day," Jeffrey Gramling, TDRS project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in a news release. EFE