WASHINGTON — A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket launched the second of the U.S. Navy’s new generation of mobile communications satellites July 19 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

Upper level winds delayed liftoff of the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS)-2 satellite until 9 a.m. EDT.  By 9:30 a.m., the Atlas 5 rocket’s Centaur upper stage had completed two of three scheduled burns. The final burn, which will deploy MUOS-2 into a geostationary transfer orbit, is scheduled to occur at approximately 12 p.m. EDT. The satellite is expected to take eight days to maneuver into its geostationary orbit some 36,000 kilometers above the equator, Capt. Paul Ghyzel, the Navy’s MUOS program manager, said in a prelaunch conference call with reporters July 15. The Navy expects to declare MUOS-2 operational after a six-month check-out period. 

Weighing more than 6,800 kilograms, MUOS-2 is also the heaviest satellite launched aboard an Atlas 5, said Jim Sponnick, United Launch Alliance’s vice president of Atlas and Delta programs.

The satellite is equipped with a UHF-band narrow band payload to provide links to ships at sea and to mobile ground forces operating in hard-to-reach areas such as beneath dense forest canopies.

The multibillion-dollar MUOS system ultimately will consist of four geostationary-orbiting satellites plus one on-orbit spare, and four ground stations. MUOS, built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif, is designed to provide cellphone-like communications to mobile forces and at rates 10 times faster than the legacy system.

Each satellite provides coverage for about one-third of the earth but Ghyzel said the specific area of service for MUOS-2 has not yet been determined.

The first of the MUOS satellites was launched in February 2012. 

The third MUOS satellite is expected to launch in 2014 and the program is expected to achieve full operational capability in 2015. The satellites are expected to provide service through 2025.

Mike Gruss is a senior staff writer for SpaceNews. He joined the publication in January 2013 to cover military space. Previously, he worked as a reporter and columnist for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. and The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Ind. He...