Navy starts countdown for launch of first MUOS satellite

Warfighters won’t gain benefits until next year

With the launch its first Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite set for the evening of Feb. 16, the Navy is highlighting that ability to provide a tenfold increase in bandwidth and the ability to communicate with warfighters on the move. However, those capabilities won’t begin until the launch of a second MUOS satellite, now set for summer 2013.

Touting this weeks’ launch as a “significant milestone for the DOD and warfighters,” Navy Capt. Paul Ghyzel stressed the improvements that will come after the second launch. Communications on the move is a key benefit of what’s planned to be a five-satellite constellation.

“When we bring MUOS on line, warfighters will be able to maintain communications while they’re moving,” said Ghyzel, who is program manager for the Navy Communications Satellite Program Office. “They’ll also have the ability to make phone calls and send data at 10 times the speed they have now. We’ll have worldwide coverage for all branches of our military and some allies, with point to point and networked capabilities that don’t exist today.”

The satellite, being launched atop an Atlas 5 rocket, is one of the heaviest satellites ever launched, at 15,000 pounds. Each of the MUOS satellites will carry two segments, one that will communicate using legacy UHF technology and a second that uses 3G cellular technology, wideband code division multiple access.

Despite his optimism during a conference call on Feb. 13 three days before the launch, Ghyzel noted that warfighters won’t be able to use the new technology until after the launch of the second communications satellite in July 2013.

“Between the launches, we’ll complete our ground station and in parallel we’ll complete the MUOS waveforms. Each branch will secure its own terminals to take advantage of the MUOS capabilities,” Ghyzel said. He also said the satellite will be tested during that time.

Ghyzel said the cost estimate for the entire MUOS program is $5.3 billion. That includes launching the five satellites, building ground stations and supporting the Navy’s share of the Joint Tactical Radio System-developed waveform.

About the Author

Terry Costlow is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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