Communications power the modern day warrior. Robust communications links and instantaneous data transfer are essential to command of the battlefield in modern day combat. The Mobile User Objective System (or MUOS for short) is the Navy’s answer to that demand for powerful channels of communication. The MUOS program consists of a constellation of four operational satellites as well as an on-orbit spare in the event of failure. In addition to the five orbiting satellites, elaborate ground infrastructure of control and network management is ultilized to handle the unique Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) waveform implemented in the new system.
MUOS, once completed, is slated to increase the communications throughput capabilities of the military by ten fold. The more robust system will provide higher data transfer rates and greater quality of service compared to the earlier system in place. Currently, UHF Follow-On (UFO), which first launched in March of 1993 provides much of the Department of Defense with its communications abilities.
The Jan. 20 launch of the third MUOS payload marks the next step in completing the new constellation and preparing for the future
of DoD communications. MUOS-3 was launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V in 551 configuration. The 551 configuration of the Atlas V is the most powerful version of ULA’s Atlas family of vehicles, being powered by five strap-on solid rocket boosters, each of which providing nearly 400,000 pounds of thrust in addition to the RD-180’s 860,000 pounds of thrust. Having a total of 2.75 million pounds of thrust, a massive 650,000 pounds more thrust than the Delta IV Heavy which carried Orion to orbit in December, the 51 configuration was necessary for placing the nearly 7.5 ton payload into geosynchronous orbit at over 22,236 miles above the surface of the earth.
MUOS-3 marks United Launch Alliance’s first launch of 2015 and the 52nd launch of the Atlas V vehicle, the fifth of which in the 551 configuration.
The next installation to MUOS, MUOS-4 is planned to launch aboard another Atlas V 551 later in 2015.
The final satellite in the MUOS constellation will also launch aboard an Atlas V vehicle, but the date and time is yet to be determined.