Satellite Communications

Navy could get next-gen global comm system a bit sooner

Lockheed MUOS test center

Lockheed Martin opened its Test Radio Access Facility to help speed up MUOS certifications.

Lockheed Martin has opened a $6.5 million Test Radio Access Facility to support faster development and deployment of a satellite-based Navy system for global mobile communications coverage.

The Mobile User Objective System, or MUOS is essentially a satellite network that operates like a cellular network, using IP technology to provide secure voice and data communications almost anywhere in the world. It was successfully tested in the Arctic earlier this year during the Navy’s 2014 Ice Exercise, during which the system provided nearly 150 hours of secure connections.

MUOS, developed by Lockheed for the Navy, is expected to get to full global coverage next year. The new 3,400-square-foot testing facility, located at the company’s Sunnyvale, Calif., campus, is open to outside vendors and could speed up deployment by allowing for faster development, testing and certification of MUOS terminals, Lockheed said in an announcement. More than 55,000 terminals currently in use can be upgraded to the MUOS Wideband Code Division Multiple Access waveform, the company said.

The facility has a segment test bed and satellite simulator with which developers can test software, hardware and government applications in a range of operational environments, and with the same equipment that would be used for final certification.

The purpose of the facility is to "help terminal developers and application integrators get MUOS' capabilities deployed to the warfighter as quickly as possible," Glenn Ladue, the facility’s manager, said in a statement. "Providing a high fidelity, end-to-end test environment during development will dramatically shorten the time it takes to get from a good idea to operational utility."

The MUOS program was initiated in 2004 with the goal of developing the Navy’s next-generation narrowband satellite communications system. Designed to provide more powerful communications with smaller terminals, while supporting interoperability with existing terminals, it combines commercial 3G cellular technology with satellites in geosynchronous Earth orbit. The Navy says MUOS will provide 10 times the communications capacity of the current UHF constellation.

The first MUOS satellite was launched in February 2012, with MUOS-2 following in July 2013. MUOS-3, which arrived at Cape Canaveral in November, is set for launch in January, and MUOS-4 will be launched later in 2015. The system also has four ground stations, located in Australia, Sicily, Virginia and Hawaii. Three of the four are operational now, with the fourth expected to come online early next year.

The Navy also is planning to test using small cube satellites with MUOS, with a launch planned for next year.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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