WASHINGTON — The second satellite in the Navy’s next-generation military communications network is scheduled to launch Friday, a major step forward for service operations around the world.
The Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) will create a secure, worldwide 3G communication network for Navy operatives in the field. The legacy Ultra High Frequency (UHF) system currently in use by the Navy provides 2.4 kilobytes per second of digital voice only; MUOS upgrades that to 348 kb/s and adds the ability to transfer data.
More importantly for the Pentagon, when the MUOs system is fully functional it will provide global communications coverage — a big change from traditional military satellite communications.
“Today, with traditional satcom systems, two users who want to communicate with each other have to be under the satellite. MUOS changes that,” Navy Capt. Paul Ghyzel, MUOS program manager, said during a conference call with reporters Monday. “Because MUOS provides global coverage, it allows users to speak to any other user on the globe within the constellation coverage area.”
The launch window is set for 8:48 to 9:42 EST Friday morning. If that window is delayed, most likely due to weather, the launch team will have to wait 24 hours before the next attempt. If the launch is successful, the satellite will spend roughly nine days to achieve orbit, during which it will operate on battery; that is followed by a period of one to three days during which the solar array and antennas unfurl.
Overall, it will take around six months for the satellite to be fully operational, at which point it will join the first MUOS satellite, launched in 2012, in providing coverage for Navy and Marine forces.
Each satellite covers “approximately” a third of the globe, according to Ghyzel.
“Depending on where the second spacecraft is placed there may be some overlap with the first spacecraft, but that’s by design to improve capacity and to improve robustness,” Ghyzel said, adding that the region the second MUOS system will be deployed to cover has not been finalized.
The MUOS constellation will include five total satellites; four will be active, while the fifth will operate as an on-orbit spare. All five are identical in design and capability. Satellite three is scheduled for launch next summer, with units four and five following at roughly 12-month intervals.