ULA Launches Lockheed Martin-Built MUOS-3 Communications Satellite

The U.S. Navy's third Mobile User Objective System (MUOS-3) satellite launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

The U.S. Navy’s third Mobile User Objective System (MUOS-3) satellite launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

January 21, 2015 – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carried the third of five planned Mobile User Objective System (MUOS-3) satellites, designed and built by Lockheed Martin, into orbit for the U.S. Navy yesterday. The mission was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 6:04 p.m. MST.

“The ULA team is honored to deliver this critical mission into orbit for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force with the support of our many mission partners,” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Atlas and Delta Programs. “The MUOS-3 spacecraft is the heaviest payload to launch atop an Atlas V launch vehicle. The Atlas V generated more than two and half million pounds of thrust at liftoff to meet the demands of lifting this nearly 7.5-ton satellite.

The MUOS satellite constellation operates like a smart phone network in the sky, vastly improving current secure mobile satellite communications for warfighters on the move. Unlike previous systems, MUOS provides users an on-demand, beyond-line-of-sight capability to transmit and receive high-quality, prioritized voice and mission data, on a high-speed Internet Protocol-based system.

MUOS is the Navy’s next generation secure mobile satellite communications system which will eventually replace the legacy Ultra High Frequency (UHF) Follow-On system. MUOS satellites have two payloads to ensure access to UHF narrowband communications as well as new capabilities. MUOS’ advanced Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) payload incorporates commercial technology and a new waveform to provide users priority-based capacity.

Once fully operational, MUOS will provide 16 times the capacity of the legacy system. More than 50,000 terminals that are in the field today can be retro-fitted with WCDMA.

“Thanks to the Atlas team for the safe delivery of MUOS-3 into our Geosynchronous Transfer orbit,” said Iris Bombelyn, vice president of Narrowband Communications at Lockheed Martin. “We look forward to completing our on-orbit health checks and delivering this important asset to the U.S. Navy. The addition of this satellite will give the MUOS constellation coverage over more than three-quarters of the globe, further extending the reach of the advanced communications capabilities MUOS will provide our mobile warfighters.”

An initialization team, led by Lockheed Martin, is operating the MUOS-3 satellite from the Naval Satellite Operations Center located at the Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, California.

MUOS-3 will transition over the next nine days to reach its geosynchronous orbit location 22,000 miles above the Earth. The solar arrays and antennas will then be deployed, and on-orbit testing will start for subsequent turn-over to the Navy for test and commissioning to service.

The MUOS constellation is expected to provide warfighters full global coverage before the end of 2015. MUOS-1 and MUOS-2, launched respectively in 2012 and 2013, are already operational and providing high-quality voice communications. MUOS-4 is on track to launch later this year. The fourth and final required MUOS ground station also is expected to be delivered to the Navy early this year.

Prior to its launch, the MUOS-3 satellite was built at Lockheed Martin’s Sunnyvale, California, manufacturing facility. The satellite was shipped to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on November 5, and encapsulated into its launch fairing on December 18.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Sunnyvale, California, is the MUOS prime contractor and system integrator. The Navy’s Program Executive Office for Space Systems and its Communications Satellite Program Office, San Diego, California, are responsible for the MUOS program.

This is ULA’s 1st launch in 2015, the 52nd Atlas V mission and the fifth Atlas V 551 launch. ULA’s next launch is the Delta II Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission for NASA scheduled for January 29, 2015, from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.