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Second Satellite for Military's Smartphone-like Network Launched

Jul 22, 2013 01:11 PM EDT
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MUOS-2 Satellite Launch
On Friday, a ULA Atlas V launched the MUOS-2 satellite into orbit.
(Photo : United Launch Alliance )

Last Friday an Atlas V rocket carrying the second in a series of spacecraft designed to grow the US Navy's mobile communications network took off from Cap Canaveral's launch pad.

At 7.5 tons, the satellite, called Mobile User Objective System-2 (MUOS-2), represented the heaviest payload ever hefted by an Atlas V, which was forced to pack 2.5 million pounds of thrust in order to boost it into the air.

According to rocket manufacturers United Launch Alliance (ULA), "MUOS is a next-generation narrowband tactical satellite communications system designed to significantly improve beyond-line-of-site communications for US forces on the move."

All told, military users will have access to 10 times more communication capacity once all five are in place, including simultaneous voice, video and data capability made possible through 3G technology.

The launch comes over a year after the last satellite was sent into orbit and an estimated year before the following satellite.

Built by Lockheed Martin, the company won a $2.1 billion contract from the Navy to build MUOS-1 and MUOS-2 and the accompanying ground control back in 2004.

According to Navy Capt. Paul Ghyzel, the Navy's role in the development and overseeing of communication technology began back in the mid-1960s when a need for reliable correspondence between sea and land arose. At that point, the Navy took on a "leading role" within the Department of Defense in providing narrowband communications for all warfighters, "regardless of the service."

"So we do it for the entire department," he explained in an interview released by the Navy.

For example, since the launch of MUOS-1, researchers have been able to establish its corresponding ground system and, according to Lockheed Martin, is already providing high quality voice communications.

The full system is tentatively scheduled for completion in 2015.

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