Rattling windows as it pierced cloudy skies above Cape Canaveral, the most powerful version of the Atlas V rocket blasted off from Space Launch Complex 41 at 9 .a.m. EDT today on the 6th mission this year for launch provider United Launch Alliance. An hour later, Atlas successfully deployed the second Mobile User Objective System (MUOS-2) satellite for the United States Navy.
“United Launch Alliance is honored to serve with our mission partners in the preparation and launch of this critical mission for the U.S. Navy and for our U.S. Air Force customer,” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Atlas and Delta Programs. “This joint government and industry team is keenly focused on mission success and enabling MUOS-2 to provide vital communications capability to the women and men protecting our freedom around the world.”
The MUOS-2 mission was launched aboard an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) 551 configuration vehicle, which includes a 5.4-meter diameter RUAG Space payload fairing along with five Aerojet Rocketdyne solid rocket motors attached to the Atlas booster. The Atlas booster for this mission was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine and the Centaur upper stage was powered by a single Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10A engine.
“At nearly 15,000 pounds, MUOS-2 is the heaviest satellite launched to date by an Atlas launch vehicle, and today’s Atlas vehicle provided 2.5 million pounds of thrust during the boost phase,” said Sponnick.
MUOS-2 is the second of five Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) spacecraft being built by Lockheed Martin under a $5.3 billion Navy contract. Likened to a cell phone tower in the sky, the spacecraft are designed with 3G cellular telephone technology to enable U.S. ships, aircraft and troops on the battlefield to communicate around the clock.
The MUOS is a narrowband Military Satellite Communications system that supports a worldwide network of joint mobile and fixed-site terminal users in the Ultra High Frequency band. The system is comprised of a constellation of four operational geosynchronous satellites, one on-orbit spare satellite, and a ground control and network management system. UOS will provide military users 10 times more communications capacity over the UHF Follow-On system by leveraging 3G mobile communications technology, and will provide simultaneous voice and data capability.
Each of the satellites is equipped with two mesh reflectors, made by Melbourne-based Harris Corp. Each antenna spans 94 feet, or about the same length as an NBA basketball court.
The MUOS system represents a leap forward in mobile military communications capability. Currently, the military relies on the Ultra High Frequency Follow-On (UFO) spacecraft, which require 20-pound backpacks and antennas that take 10 minutes to set up and tear down. Only “stop-and-talk” capability exists, and personnel must be in line of sight with the UFO spacecraft.
MUOS will provide the mobile warfighter with point-to-point and netted communications services with a secure “comm on the move” capability on a 24×7 basis. Using recent commercial advances in cellular and satellite technology, the system will deliver data rates of up to 384 kbps “on the move” and offer priority-based access to voice, data, and video, on demand.
Once MUOS is fully deployed, troops will be able to communicate in any weather, and in even the most difficult environments, such as heavy-wooded regions covered with thick forest canopies or urban canyons, as well as over the horizon.
“One of the strengths of the MUOS system is that it will be able to operate in all anticipated environments,” said Capt. Paul Ghyzel, the Navy’s MUOS program manager.
As deployment of the MUOS system continues, the UHF constellation is on-station 24/7 supporting the warfighter. However, as the current UHF constellation approaches its end of life and to satisfy the increased warfighter demand for satellite communication capability, the Navy has developed several mitigation activities to optimize UHF capacity in the event of a loss of an on-orbit satellite. As a result, today’s UHF constellation provides the warfighter approximately 111 more channels worldwide than requirements mandate. This additional 111 more channels is equivalent to three UFO satellites and is 39 percent more than the required number of worldwide channels.
ULA’s next launch is the Delta IV WGS-6 mission for the U.S. Air Force scheduled Aug. 7 from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
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