Spaceflight Insider

MUOS-5 satellite starts pre-operational testing

The MUOS-5 satellite lifts off from Cape Canaveral's SLC-41 on June 24, 2016. Photo Credit: Mike Deep / SpaceFlight Insider

The MUOS-5 satellite lifts off from Cape Canaveral’s SLC-41 on June 24, 2016. Photo Credit: Mike Deep / SpaceFlight Insider

The fifth, and final, Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite has reached its intended orbit and has started pre-operational testing. With the spacecraft’s solar array and antennas now deployed, it marks a turning point for the satellite which encountered a problem with its propulsion system. 

That system, which was used to raise MUOS-5, experienced this anomaly as it made its way to geosynchronous orbit on June 29 of this year (2016). Launched five days earlier on June 24, MUOS-5 flew atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 (the seventh launch of this configuration of the rocket).

“In the end, the Navy and Lockheed Martin engineering team were able to isolate the issue and develop a work-around using alternative propulsion,” Mark Woempner, director of Narrowband Communications Systems at Lockheed Martin (the satellite’s manufacturer) said via a release issued by the company. “Once we had a plan together, in early October we carefully re-started orbit raising maneuvers.”

The satellite was placed into safe mode in a transfer orbit as mission managers worked to determine what the problem was. According to the U.S. Navy: “The transfer maneuver was designed to take the satellite from its initial elliptical launch orbit to its final circular geosynchronous orbit [GEO].”

MUOS-5 was supposed to reach GEO and enter the orbital test site 22,000 miles (35,406 kilometers) above Hawaii by July 3.

Once the investigation was concluded, MUOS-5 completed the journey to its intended orbit on Oct. 22, deploying its array and antennas eight days later on the 30th.

The spacecraft will now undergo on-orbit testing before its operations are handed over to the U.S. Navy. They will, in turn, continue testing and then bringing it into service. MUOS-5 will serve as an on-orbit spare.

MUOS has been fielded so as to provide beyond line-of-sight communications and other services across the globe. audio, video, and other data will be transmitted across the fleet and via ground stations.

 

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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.

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