July 19, 2013
Credit: Lockheed Martin
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V lifted off July 19, carrying the second of the U.S. Navy’s new narrowband communications satellites.
Liftoff occurred at 9:00 a.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite, made by Lockheed Martin, was lofted from an Atlas V 551, meaning it used a 5-meter fairing and five strap-on solid-rocket boosters. A 44-min. launch window opened at 8:48 a.m. EDT, but the launch was put on hold temporarily due to high upper-level winds.
The first MUOS was launched Feb. 24, 2012 and began limited operations late last year. The constellation—ultimately planned to include 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 orbited 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 the military with voice, data and video services similar to those offered by commercial smartphones. The existing narrowband system requires users to be stationary to receive a signal; MUOS was designed to allow soldiers to move around the battlefield while also accessing data at 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; however, the program has slipped at least two years.