US Navy’s Latest Communications Satellite to Take Off

Final preparations are underway to launch the US Navy’s latest communications satellite that will significantly improve capability for Navy and Department of Defense tactical operators.

The launch of an Atlas V rocket carrying the MUOS-3 payload for the U.S. Navy is set to lift off Jan. 20 from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch window is 7:43 to 8:27 p.m. EST.

The third satellite is part of the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), which operates like a smartphone network from space, vastly improving secure satellite communications for mobile U.S. forces. Unlike its predecessor system, MUOS provides users a global, on-demand, beyond-line-of-sight capability to transmit and receive high-quality voice and mission data from a high-speed Internet Protocol-based system.

Navy Capt. Joe Kan, MUOS program manager, said:

The MUOS satellite has two payloads. It has a legacy payload that supports the current user base of 200,000 plus terminals worldwide, as well as the future payload that is like modern cellphone technology. This allows for a smooth transition between the current and near future capability.

Kan noted that while launching satellites and deploying ground systems are key milestones, the program’s highlight will be when the Navy turns the system over to U.S. Strategic Command for operations. The next generation of warfighters will find innovative ways of using it that the system designers had never conceived.

MUOS provides secure communications between warfighters around the globe, as well as connection with classified and unclassified networks and DoD phone systems. This capability directly impacts dismounted, ground-based mobile users who require secure voice and mission data but is also available to ships, aircraft and vehicles.

MUOS is more than just a five-satellite constellation. It additionally comprises four ground stations across the globe, complex software to manage the network and a Wideband Code Division Multiple Access waveform that serves as an interface for end-user radios.

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Press release, Image: US Navy