The fourth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite has been blasted into space, and that means a great deal to the troops back here on the
ground. The Navy soon will have all four MUOS satellites
in working order, providing unprecedented connectivity
to the troops. A fifth satellite that will act as an on-orbit
spare will be launched later this year.
And it has been a long time coming — the legacy
Ultra-High Frequency Follow-On (UFO) constellation
is well past its sell-by date. The UFO satellites reached
initial operational capability (IOC) in 1993, and a gap-filler UFO satellite was launched in 2003. The constellation is used not just by the Navy, but the entire
Department of Defense to provide communications
capabilities to terminals across the globe, and voice
communications and data to troops.
The United Launch Alliance successfully sent the
latest MUOS satellite into orbit on Sept. 2 aboard an
Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station,
Fla. The fifth and final satellite is scheduled to join it in
July. On-orbit testing of the fourth
satellite was completed Nov. 30 and
the Navy formally accepted the
satellite in December.
Each satellite has two payloads:
the legacy payload carried by UFO
satellites and the Wideband Code
Division Multiple Access (WCDMA)
payload, which basically allows the
MUOS to operate as a global cellular
service provider for troops, providing capabilities similar to what one
would expect for a modern smart-phone.
Since the fifth satellite is an on-orbit spare, the fourth will be the
last one needed to provide worldwide coverage, and it will be in position in March, Capt. Joe Kan, MUOS
program manager, told Seapower.
“We only need four to cover the world. … If something were to happen to any one of the other four satellites, within a matter of weeks we can reposition that
fifth satellite and have it on and ready to go to minimize
any communication gaps that would result from a loss
of any of the other satellites,” Kan said.
Iris Bombelyn, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for
Narrow Band Communications, confirmed in an e-mail that the company has completed final testing for
the fifth MUOS satellite and is preparing it to be
shipped to Cape Canaveral for launch later this spring.
“MUOS- 5 completes the Navy’s MUOS initial con-
stellation, with an on-orbit spare,” she said. “We’re
looking forward to supporting the operationalization
of this system later in the year, and are excited that this
enhanced communications capability is soon to be
available to our mobile services around the world.”
But it’s not just about the satellites when it comes to
MUOS. There also is the ground network, which is an
indispensable part of the system. There are four ground
Cell Towers in Space
With four MUOS satellites in orbit, the Navy expects
a big upgrade to communications on the ground
By DANIEL P. TAYLOR, Special Correspondent
The U.S. Navy’s Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), built by
Lockheed Martin, is a next-generation narrowband tactical satellite communications system that will significantly improve ground
communications — voice, data and imagery — for U.S. forces on
; The fourth satellite completing the system was launched in
September, and a fifth is expected to be launched in July to serve
as an on-orbit spare.
; Four ground stations — in Australia, Italy, Southeast Virginia
and Hawaii — connect MUOS into one seamless system.
; While the MUOS satellites are for testing rather than operations right now, officials are aiming for initial operational capability
later this year.