Fifth MUOS spacecraft transported to Cape in preparation for May launch
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The U.S. Navy’s version of smartphone technology is poised to receive its final component when it will be sent aloft atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket this May. The fifth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite has been sent to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for a planned May 3, 2016, flight.
If everything goes according to plan, MUOS-5 will be the third MUOS spacecraft to be launched in a roughly 16-month time span. Once on orbit, MUOS-5 will complete the constellation. It could, however, have the easiest job of the five spacecraft as it will serve as an on-orbit spare, ensuring that customers are granted uninterrupted services.
“As MUOS-5’s launch approaches, MUOS-4 is preparing to begin operations on-station, enabling MUOS’ near-global coverage,” said Mark Woempner, program director of Lockheed Martin’s Narrowband Communications mission area. “We are proud that we will soon be providing our mobile forces access to the system’s enhanced communications capabilities from nearly anywhere, including further into polar regions than ever before.”
MUOS is more than a five-satellite constellation; it also consists of relay ground stations. Users of this system should receive services comparable to what civilians receive via smartphones.
Through this system, these customers will gain 16 times greater capacity than that granted through heritage ultra high-frequency systems. MUOS will bridge the gap between the two systems, eventually replacing the UHF constellation.
MUOS-5 was transported to the Cape via a C-5 Galaxy aircraft by the 60th Air Mobility Wing at Travis Air Force Base. Upon its arrival in Florida, MUOS-5 will be processed at the Astrotech Space Operations where its pre-launch processing will be completed.
This launch will see the completion of the MUOS constellation. The ground stations have already finished construction with some 55,000 fielded radio terminals requiring upgrades so as to be MUOS-compatible. Most of these are only in need of a software upgrade.
The first MUOS satellite was sent into orbit via a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 on February 24, 2012, from the Cape’s SLC-41. MUOS-2 joined it on orbit in the following year. The MUOS-3 spacecraft joined them in 2013, and in 2014, the MUOS-4 launched on its own Atlas V.
For Colorado-based ULA, the MUOS-5 mission will mark the third flight of the year – all of them will have used versions of the venerable Atlas V.
Video courtesy of United Launch Alliance
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.