Lockheed Martin [LMT] and the U.S. Navy’s Communications Satellite program Office handed over operational control of the fifth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS-5) communications satellite to the Naval Satellite Operations Center (NAVSOC) on Oct. 11 following an earlier propulsion problem, the company said Nov. 16.
The handover was the last obstacle and now allows for Army Forces Strategic Command (ARSTRAT) to provide the payload’s final configurations to support the legacy Navy ultra-high-frequency (UHF) satellite communications mission.
MUOS-5 was launched in June 2016 as a spare for the new MUOS constellation. This group of satellites provides UHF satellite communications for military operations. It aims to provide over 10 times the communications capacity of the previous legacy UHF system and ultimately replace the older Ultra High Frequency Follow-On (UFO) satellite program.
After launch, the satellite experienced an anomaly in its orbit-raising propulsion system while shifting from the initial orbit to its final orbit.
In November 2016 a Navy official said although MUOS-5 would not reach its intended final orbit, it still achieved a “roughly” geostationary orbit where it could provide some operational utility.
Eventually, the Navy and Lockheed Martin were able to “isolate the issue and develop a work-around using alternative propulsion,” Mark Woempner, Lockheed Martin director of narrowband communications systems, said in a statement November 2016.
The MUOS satellites have two payloads: a legacy UHF and next generation Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) payload for when the military transitions away from UHF communications.
In April 2016, the Navy and ARSTRAT configured MUOS-5’s UHF payload for testing.
Woempner said in a statement that “ARSTRAT's final configuration of MUOS-5's UHF legacy payload allows the satellite to fully support our military forces” in Combatant Commands in aircraft, ships, submarines, ground vehicles, and troops in the field.
He compared this communications channel to a civilian cellular phone service in that “upgrades to this new secure global military cellular network are ground-based and designed in an AGILE software development environment.”
“We continue to make upgrades to the system based on user needs and look forward to bringing its full capabilities to our warfighters,” he added.
Lockheed Martin noted there are over 55,000 fielded radio terminals that can be upgraded to be MUOS-capable, many though a mere software upgrade.
Separately, on Nov. 16, the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a nearly $93 million modification under the MUOS contract for engineering services, interim logistics services, spares, and associated material.
Most of the work will occur in Scottsdale, Ariz., with 10 percent in Sunnyvale, Calif. It is expected to be finished by November 2020. The Navy noted no funds would be obligated at award time.