U.S. Navy’s MUOS-4 Shipped for August Launch

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy’s fourth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) communications satellite arrived at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in preparation for a scheduled August launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.

The satellite is the penultimate in the geostationary-orbiting MUOS series, designed to provide smartphone-like communications to U.S. forces across the globe, including in challenging environments such as beneath forest canopies. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, California, is the prime contractor.

“MUOS allows troops all over the world to talk, text and share mission data seamlessly, while traveling, like a cellular network, without having to worry about where they are in relation to a satellite,” Iris Bombelyn, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for narrowband communications, said in a prepared statement. “MUOS-4 will complete our near global coverage, reaching further north and south toward the poles than ever before.”

MUOS-4 preps for shipment to Cape Canaveral for launch. Credit: Lockheed Martin

The first three MUOS satellites launched between 2012 and this past January. After MUOS-4 launches, Lockheed Martin expects the full network to be operational by the end of the year. An on-orbit spare satellite, MUOS-5, is scheduled to launch in 2016.

According to the Government Accountability Office, the MUOS program will cost about $7.4 billion. The initial constellation provides mobile service 10 times faster than legacy systems and is expected to operate through 2025.

Lockheed Martin says all four MUOS ground stations are built, and that about 55,000 currently fielded radio terminals can be upgraded for MUOS-compatibility.

Astrotech Space Operations, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, will conduct MUOS-4’s pre-launch processing before the satellite launches.