In an early morning spurt of early morning Florida fire, the Navy launched its fourth next generation Mobile User Objective System (MUOS-4) on top of an Atlas V booster from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the service announced on Wednesday.
With today’s launch, delayed from Aug. 31 due to weather, the Department of Defense is poised to have global coverage of the next generation communications network that promise global data transfer speeds of 384 kbs —a similar rate to legacy smart phones and ten times faster than the legacy military Ultra High Frequency Follow-On (UFO) constellation.
“The legacy satellite communication system allowed users to ‘talk’ as long as they were within the same satellite footprint,” said Capt. Joe Kan, program manager for the Communications Satellite Program Office in a Navy statement.
“MUOS allows troops all over the world to talk, text and share mission data seamlessly without having to worry about where they are in relation to a satellite.”
The five planned MUOS satellites in the $7.8 billion constellation will plan to be used in conjunction with ground stations Hawaii, Italy, Western Australia and Chesapeake, Va.
“Over the next several days MUOS-4 will transition to reach its geosynchronous orbit location approximately 22,000 miles above Earth to begin initial on-orbit testing,” read the statement from MUOS builder Lockheed Martin.
“The satellite’s solar arrays and antennas will then be deployed. On-orbit testing will start for subsequent turn-over to the Navy for test and commissioning to service.”
The service accepted the MUOS-3 in June and is planned to become operational in the coming weeks.
While the launches have been successful, developing radios for the new constellation have been a challenge.
According to an April Government Accountability Office report, problems in integrating the MUOS waveform into a new crop of radios has “caused delays in the use of radios being developed by the Army as the first operational terminals to incorporate the waveform… Use of over 90 percent of MUOS’ planned capability is dependent on resolving problems with integrating the waveform, terminals and ground systems.”
The Army has pushed operational testing for its MUOS capable radios until November and is not expecting to field the first radios until 2016, according to the GAO.
The Navy plans to launch an additional satellite for the MUOS constellation.