NASA notes with sadness the passing last week of Charles T. Force, former associate administrator for the agency's Office of Space Communications.
Force left NASA in May 1996 after an aerospace career that spanned more than four decades. He joined NASA in 1965 as director of the Guam tracking station used to support the Apollo lunar landings. He would later go on to help develop, construct and employ NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System, known as TDRSS.
The constellation of communications satellites replaced an aging ground-based communications network and was designed to increase the time spacecraft were in communication with the ground and improve the amount of data that could be transferred. It cut NASA's telecommunications costs in half and is still in use today.
"As we fly the International Space Station and space shuttle today and rely on the TDRSS system and as we prepare for new satellites in the constellation, it's fitting to acknowledge the fundamental role of Charlie Force in the development and deployment of this incredible data relay system," said Michael Hawes, acting deputy associate administrator for Space Communications and Navigation.
The users of TDRSS read like a who's who of the space program. Programs such as the Hubble Space Telescope and LANDSAT relay their observations to their respective mission control centers through the network.
In a 1992 op-ed in the Washington Post, Force complimented NASA and its employees, writing "its (NASA's) accomplishments are unequaled and attest to its people forming one of the most capable and effective teams ever assembled."
A native of Shoals, Indiana, Force was a 1957 graduate of Purdue University. He was 72 years old.