Navy Communications Satellite Launched
The Navy's third Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite was launched today at 8:04 p.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 41. This communications satellite will significantly improve capability for Navy and Department of Defense tactical operators.
Over the next several days, the satellite will transition to its geosynchronous orbit location 22,000 miles above Earth. Its solar arrays and mesh antennas will then be deployed and on-orbit testing will begin for eventual commissioning into service.
Upon acceptance for operational use, MUOS 3 along with MUOS 1 and 2 already on-orbit, will provide communications coverage to more than three-quarters of the globe.
"This MUOS 3 launch is another major milestone to achieving the next generation of global tactical satellite communications capability for the Department of Defense," said Navy Capt. Joe Kan, MUOS program manager. "It's very visible evidence of the tremendous talent and dedication of our integrated joint service, government and contactor team."
MUOS operates like a smartphone network from space, vastly improving secure satellite communications for mobile U.S. forces. Unlike its predecessor system, MUOS provides users a global, on-demand, beyond-line-of-sight capability to transmit and receive high-quality voice and mission data using a high-speed Internet Protocol-based system.
According to Nina Tran, MUOS space division director, successful launch was the culmination of many months of meticulous preparation.
"Before the spacecraft was shipped to the Cape, there was an 18-month effort where we went through baseline, environmental and final testing to ensure once we get this vehicle on-orbit it's reliable and fulfills its mission," explained Tran, who oversees the design, build, test and delivery of MUOS space vehicles. "Once the spacecraft arrived at the Cape we had a team of engineers who went through an intensive period of vehicle testing, then fueling and integration with the launch vehicle."
One of the key advantages MUOS will bring is increased capacity. There will be a 10-fold increase in the number of simultaneous users supported across the system. It brings higher data rates and the ability to reliably communicate in more challenging environments. Additional advantages include global reach and increased accessibility to military networks by the tactical users
MUOS provides satellite communications in the narrowband spectrum. Although narrowband communication is less than 2 percent of total DoD bandwidth, it represents more than 50 percent of all DoD satellite communication users. In addition to ad-hoc situations such as disaster response, narrowband represents the majority of communications for SEAL teams in Afghanistan and ground patrols in Iraq.
While the third launch is a key milestone, much work is still underway to provide secure, worldwide coverage. "Right now we need to ensure the system works end-to-end," said Jim Parsons, MUOS technical director. "We're in the process of doing that by connecting an Army radio program, an Army waveform development program, our Navy satellites and ground system and DoD teleports to ensure that all elements work together as designed."
For operators, the services will procure new radios or upgrade existing radios with the MUOS capability. Examples of warfighter's devices currently developing the MUOS capability include: General Dynamics (PRC-155 and USC-61), Harris (PRC-117G), Rockwell Collins (ARC-210), Raytheon (ARC-231) and others. The MUOS software waveform is now available to industry for implementation on their software defined radio products. The specific MUOS services provided depend on the capabilities of a particular radio and mission needs of the warfighting community using that radio.
Two MUOS satellites, launched in 2012 and 2013, are already providing legacy communications capability from their geosynchronous orbits over the Pacific Ocean and Continental United States. Ultimately, the constellation and associated network will extend narrowband communications availability well past 2025.
The Navy's Program Executive Office for Space Systems, located at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego, is responsible for the MUOS program.