Waiting for MUOS
Delays have not dampened Navy’s desire
for next-generation communications satellite system
By DANIEL P. TAYLOR, Special Correspondent
tered another delay that would
bump the launch to February.
In response to the delays, the
Senate Armed Services Committee
slashed $205 million from the program in its markup of the fiscal
2012 defense authorization bill in
June. The money likely will be restored as the program tries to get
back on track.
The total value of the program,
with all options exercised, is $3.26
billion, according to prime contractor Lockheed Martin Space
Sean J. Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for
Research, Development & Acquisition, said in a report
released in early 2010 that the program suffered from a
schedule that was too aggressive and a host of technical challenges.
Steven Davis, a spokesman for Space and Naval
Warfare Systems Command, told Seapower that the
program has addressed the problems and “we are on
track for a February 2012 launch of MUOS 1. The
spacecraft has successfully completed thermal vacuum
[TVAC] testing and is continuing post-TVAC prepara-
tions for delivery.”
Lockheed Martin said the kind of delays the satellite
system has experienced are to be expected for new, rev-
“Development of any new sophisticated space program such as MUOS has inherent risk, especially in the
critical stage of assembly, integration and test,” said
Mark Pasquale, Lockheed Martin vice president and
MUOS program manager. “We work closely with our
Navy customer to resolve issues and ensure mission
success on this critical national security program. We
are on track and confident that we will successfully
deliver this cutting-edge system in a timely fashion to
support our customer’s needs.”
The first of five Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellites
is expected to be launched into orbit next year.
■ The MUOS constellation is expected to provide more than 10
times the bandwidth capacity of the legacy constellation.
■ An overly aggressive schedule and technical challenges have
contributed to delays in the launch of the first satellite.
■ The functionality of the current satellite system is diminishing.
Nearly two decades ago, the Navy launched the first satellite of its Ultra High Frequency Follow-On (UFO) system into orbit to provide bandwidth and communications to troops and
vehicles in the field. In less than a year, the service hopes
to finally have the first satellite of a next-generation constellation with 10 times the capacity of the current system circling Earth.
The Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) is a collection of five satellites — four active and one on-orbit
spare — that will provide narrowband tactical communications in the ultra-high-frequency (UHF) band to
troops in the field. After the Navy launches the first
satellite in early 2012, the service will launch one per
year until all five are on orbit.
But that first launch has proved to be a moving target because integration and technical concerns have
taken longer than expected to resolve. At one point,
first on-orbit delivery of MUOS was scheduled for
The Navy then had hoped to launch the satellite this
year, but John Zangardi, deputy assistant secretary of
the Navy for Command, Control, Communications,
Computers, Intelligence, Information Operations and
Space, told the Senate Armed Services strategic forces
subcommittee in May that the program had encoun-