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Navy’s MUOS-4 satellite encapsulated in PLF for flight

Mobile User Objective System 4 MUOS United Launch Alliance ULA Atlas V 551 spacecraft satellite U.S. Navy photo

The U.S. Navy’s MUOS-4 spacecraft has been encapsulated into the payload fairing that will shield it through Earth’s atmosphere. Photo Credit: U.S. Navy / United Launch Alliance

The fourth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS-4) secure communications satellite, built for the U.S. Navy, has been enclosed in its protective payload fairing (PLF) in preparation for a planned Aug. 31 launch date. Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for the spacecraft, constructed MUOS-4 for the U.S. Navy as part of their secure communications system for mobile military forces.

Lockheed Martin reported that the satellite had been placed within its protective fairing on Aug. 10. MUOS-4 will be launched on an Atlas V 551 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) in Florida.

The U.S. Navy's MUOS-4 spacecraft has been encapsulated into the payload fairing that will shield it through Earth's atmosphere. Photo Credit: U.S. Navy / United Launch Alliance

MUOS-4 is scheduled to lift off on August 31 with a launch window that opens at 4:07 a.m. EDT (8:07 GMT). Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin

According to the Lockheed Martin press release, the MUOS-4 is the latest addition to a network of orbiting satellites and relay ground stations that are being lofted so as to revolutionize secure communications for mobile military forces.

Users with operational MUOS terminals can seamlessly connect beyond line-of-sight to points around the globe and into the Global Information Grid. MUOS’ new smart phone-like capabilities include simultaneous, crystal-clear voice, video, and mission data, over a high-speed Internet Protocol-based system.

“Delivery of this fourth satellite for the U.S. Navy completes the initial MUOS constellation and provides near-global coverage for the network,” said Iris Bombelyn, vice president of Narrowband Communications at Lockheed Martin. “For our mobile forces, that means for the first time they will be able to have secure, high-fidelity voice conversations, networked team calls, and data exchange, including video, with anyone around the world connected with a MUOS terminal.”

MUOS is a complete system, with satellites and ground stations that convert a Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) third generation (3G) into a military ready UHF SATCOM radio system.

This system gives the military the ability to use more cellular-like data systems during operations in the field. MUOS allows for voice and data transmissions, similar to smartphone systems, but spanning the entire globe.

MUOS, which also supports the legacy ultra high-frequency communications satellite system, will provide comparatively 16 times the capacity of this heritage system and eventually replace it.

MUOS demonstrated its capabilities for use in extreme locations when tests using the system were conducted in the Arctic. This test is believed to be the most northerly successful call to a geosynchronous satellite ever made.

The MUOS-1, 2, and 3 satellites were launched in 2012, 2013, and January 2015 (respectively). MUOS-4 was delivered to Cape Canaveral in preparation for this upcoming flight on June 28, 2015.

If everything goes according to schedule, MUOS-5, an on-orbit Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) spare with additional legacy system capability, is expected to launch in 2016.

All four of the MUOS ground stations have been completed; this is despite a controversy in Italy that delayed construction for nearly six months in 2013.

Currently, there are more than 55,000 radio terminals in the field that are MUOS-compatible. Most of the devices simply require a software upgrade to use the new system.

Lockheed Martin manufactured MUOS-4 at the company’s Sunnyvale, California, facility. Earlier this summer, the satellite shipped to the Cape, where it was processed in preparation for flight and finally encapsulated at Astrotech Space Operations, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin. In addition to Lockheed Martin, the companies General Dynamics, Boeing, and Harris were key subcontractors providing ground transport architecture, legacy UHF Follow-On (UFO), and deployable mesh detectors, respectively.

 MUOS-4, the next satellite scheduled to join the MUOS network later this year, is in final assembly and test at Lockheed Martin’s satellite manufacturing facility in Sunnyvale, California. Photo and Caption Credit: Lockheed Martin

MUOS-4, the next satellite scheduled to join the MUOS network later this year, is in final assembly and test at Lockheed Martin’s satellite manufacturing facility in Sunnyvale, California. Photo and Caption Credit: Lockheed Martin

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Joe Latrell is a life-long avid space enthusiast having created his own
rocket company in Roswell, NM in addition to other consumer space
endeavors. He continues to design, build and launch his own rockets and has a passion to see the next generation excited about the opportunities of space exploration. Joe lends his experiences from the corporate and small business arenas to organizations such as Teachers In Space, Inc. He is also actively engaged in his church investing his many skills to assist this and other non-profit endeavors.

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