Friday, June 24, 2016

MUOS 5 launches to increase secure military mobile communications

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- A military satellite for the U.S. Navy designed to increase mobile communications for the military world wide was successfully placed into Earth orbit on Friday following its launch from America's Space Coast.

The fifth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) spacecraft will serve as a spare and complete the high quality mobile communications constellation used by troops on the move around the globe. Acting as a massive cell tower in space, the military is using MUOS to connect with isolated troops unavailable by other other transmittable means.

"MUOS 5 is identical to (past) MUOS, and keeping a spare is all part in ensuring that the MUOS capabilty we are delivering will be around for the next 10-plus years," said Commander Peter Sheehy of U.S. Navy Communications Satellite Program Office minutes following the launch. "Launches like what we experienced today require month and months of preparation and that's something we don't want to wait for, and that's why we keep an on-orbit spare."

Lift-off of MUOS 5 occurred on time at 10:30 a.m. EDT, on June 24, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. As the countdown reached zero, the launch pad's ground umbilical and hold down posts broke free allowing the powerful United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket to carry the spacecraft toward orbit.

Powered by five solid fuel boosters and a liquid fuel main engine, the Atlas 5 thundered into the blue skies and eastward out over the Atlantic waters. Nearly two minutes later, the nearly 200-foot rocket dropped its spent boosters while its RD-180 core engine continued to burn.

The Atlas' Centaur upper stage then performed three burns over the next two hours placing the spacecraft in a geostationary transfer orbit. Once at GTO, MUOS separated from the Centaur at 1:23 p.m. high above the western Indian Ocean.

The Lockheed Martin-built spacecraft will increase secured voice, data and Internet speeds as troops work in remote areas of the world. The massive 7.5 ton satellite is expected to serve as an on orbit spare for a short time before joining the MUOS constellation for about 15 years.

“Users of the legacy satellite communications system can talk, but they are limited to conversations between users under the footprint of the same satellite,” Director of Lockheed Martin’s Narrowband Communications Systems Mark Woempner said. “MUOS is a game-changer for our forces establishing a global military cellular network through which they can reach out to each other and exchange mission data almost anywhere around the world.”

Increased shipping and military visits to the Arctic region has witnessed the need for improved communications at the North Pole unavailable by satellites in geostationary orbit. Woempner added on Thursday that MUOS will cover more of the Arctic region than it was designed for.

A specially designed black MUOS phone terminal and small dish antenna allows connection with the satellite by a mobile user. It can take up to 15 minutes to set up and send out the first transmissions.

From the mobile site, the signal is routed to the MUOS constellation in geostationary orbit and then down to one of four ground stations located in Virginia, Hawaii, Australia and Italy. From there, the signal or data packet is sent to the receiver. Two satellite control stations are located at NAVSOC facilities in California and Colorado.

"Users with new MUOS terminals are seamlessly connecting beyond line-of-sight around the globe," the U.S. Navy said. "MUOS' capabilities include simultaneous voice, video and mission data on an Internet Protocol-based system capable of connecting to military networks."

MUOS is also providing secure communications for military aircraft high above remote sites, and aboard Navy submarines at the poles. An Air Force C-17 performed the first MUOS aeronautical use during Operation Deep Freeze over Antarctica in 2014.

“Like its predecessors, MUOS 5 has two payloads to support both these new Wideband Code Division Multiple Access waveform capabilities as well as the legacy Ultra High Frequency satellite system used by many mobile forces today,” Woempner said. “On orbit, MUOS 5 will augment the constellation as a WCDMA spare, while actively supporting the legacy UHF system.”

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