After two weather scrubs, the United States Navy finally got MUOS-1 into orbit on its third try. The communications satellite was launched on Friday, February 24 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida at 5:15 p.m. EST.
MUOS, the Mobile User Objective System, is a next-generation narrowband tactical satellite communications system designed to improve ground communications for U.S. military forces on the move. It will provide users 10 times more communications capacity over existing systems, including simultaneous voice, video, and data by leveraging 3G technologies. Data rates of up to 384 kbps “on the move” will be available, with MUOS incorporating IPv4 and IPv6 to enable roaming to IP networks.
Lockheed Martin (News - Alert) has the contract for building MUOS, which is designed to replace the legacy Ultra High Frequency Follow-On (UFO) system. A total of four MUOS satellites will be put into geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO), along with an on-orbit spare. Each satellite is built using Lockheed’s A2100 bus and is equipped to deliver 16 WCDMA beams. The satellites carry both MUOS WCDMA and legacy UHF SATCOM payloads in order to support both legacy UHF SATCOM terminals and JTRS-compatible terminals.
According to Lockheed Martin, a single MUOS satellite will provide four times the capacity of the entire legacy UFO constellation of 10 satellites. Full operational capacity of MUOS with all four satellites in orbit is expected in 2015, extending UHF narrowband communications availability “well past” 2025.
Weighing in at nearly 15,000 pounds on the ground, MUOS-1 was launched onboard an Atlas V 551 vehicle including five Aerojet solid rocket motors attached to the Atlas booster and a 5.4 meter RUAG Space payload fairing manufactured by Swiss-based RUAG. The Atlas first stage was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine manufactured in Russia and fuelled with kerosene and liquid oxygen. Liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel the Centaur upper stage powered by a single Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RL10A engine.
The launch marks the 200th flight of the Centaur upper stage and the heaviest payload to date launched by an Atlas V configuration. It also marks Atlas V’s twenty-ninth flight, with twenty-eight fully successful missions.
Two previous attempts to launch MUOS on February 16 and February 17 were scrubbed due to high winds and overcast skies, followed by a rollback to the Vertical Integration Facility and the reset to the launch attempt on February 24. Florida’s sometimes fickle weather – witness the Sunday rainout of the Daytona 500 – is one of the reasons why SpaceX (News - Alert) is looking for another East Coast launch facility to complement its Cape Canaveral pad.
Edited by Jennifer Russell