Yesterday morning at 6:18 a.m. EST an Atlas V rocket with a cutting-edge Navy communications satellite onboard was launched out of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, lighting up the sky in a most otherworldly fashion. People in Miami in particular got an amazingly surreal view of the launch, with the videos below to show for it.
The rocket was carrying the fourth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS). The nearly eight billion dollar constellation of satellites will bring smart-phone like beyond-line-of-sight voice, video and data connectivity to soldiers on the move around the globe. Coverage will also include the north and south poles, areas where other satellite systems were spotty at best. The MUOS waveform also has the ability to penetrate dense foliage, something older UHF systems were less than capable of.
MUOS will be used by everyone from individual soldiers on the ground to aircraft in the air to ships and submarines out to sea. Once fully operational it will offer ten times the bandwidth of military’s current UHF satellite communications system. Each satellite is also equipped to support “legacy” hardware as well as new systems tailor made for MUOS. As a result, the transition in user hardware can be realized gradually over time.
In total, five of the satellites are being delivered by Lockheed Martin, but the fifth unit will be used as an on-orbit spare and will launch in 2016. As such, the constellation will be fully operational once yesterday’s payload comes online and completes testing.
Contact the author at Tyler@jalopnik.com.