The U.S. Navy Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command is planning to launch the first satellite in the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) constellation tonight at 5:42 p.m. EST. (Yesterday’s attempt was scrubbed due to weather.) You can watch the live stream of the launch hosted by ULA Launch Alliance.
This is a rare event as the Navy doesn’t often have a significant role in space. Typically satellite launches are handled by the Air Force, however the Navy is responsible for all of DOD’s Ultra High Frequency (UHF) narrowband satellite communications acquisition. The UHF radio frequency spectrum is the military’s most effective band for penetrating jungle foliage, bad weather, and urban settings. All U.S. military forces and many of our allies rely upon Navy satellites for these communications.
MUOS combines commericial third generation (3G) Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) cellular technology with geosychronous satellites to provide a more capable communications network for our warfighters. When complete, the constellation will include four operational satellites with an additional on-orbit spare, a ground control system, and a network management system. Flying the satellites and controlling access to users’ communications can all be managed from the ground.
The MUOS constellation will provide 10 times the current communications bandwidth capacity, supplying a new waveform for user terminals. The Joint Tactical Radio System will be adapted to support these new waveforms, as well as certain upgraded legacy terminals. In addition, each satellite will carry a legacy payload to continue to support legacy terminals, allowing for a more gradual transition to the new waveform.