July 16, 2013
Credit: Lockheed Martin
The U.S. Navy is planning to loft its second in a series of next-generation narrowband communications satellites on Friday, July 19.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V is slated to boost the second Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) spacecraft during a 44-min. launch window that opens at 8:48 a.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral. The launch vehicle is an Atlas V 551, meaning it will use a 5-meter fairing and five strap-on, solid-rocket boosters.
The first MUOS was launched Feb. 24, 2012, and began limited operations late last year. The constellation, ultimately planned for four operational satellites, is built by Lockheed Martin.
MUOS contains a legacy ultra-high frequency communications payload, built by Boeing, as well as one using the newer Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) standard. Full capability of the new WCDMA payload will not be reached until this second satellite is in orbit and checked out. At that point, officials will validate its functionality, including use of the new payload, with satellites and ground systems.
The WCDMA payload is intended to provide soldiers with voice, data and video services similar to those offered by commercial smart phones. Today’s narrowband system requires soldiers to be stationary to receive a signal; MUOS was designed to allow soldiers to move around the battlefield while also accessing data rates up to 10 times higher than those provided by today’s constellation.
Lockheed Martin is working on a MUOS development contract worth up to $3.3 billion; the program has slipped at least two years.