A U.S. Navy official expressed optimism Nov. 2 that the service will ultimately be able to use the fifth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS-5) communications satellite, which experienced a glitch in its orbit-raising propulsion system in June.

The satellite will not reach its intended final place in space, but it has achieved a “roughly” geosynchronous orbit where it is expected to provide at least some “operational utility,” said Rear Adm. Christian “Boris” Becker, program executive officer for command, control, communications, computers and intelligence and PEO for space systems.

Artist's rendering of a Navy Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite. Photo: Lockheed Martin
Artist’s rendering of a Navy Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite.
Photo: Lockheed Martin

“We conducted the deployments … of the solar arrays,” said Becker, who spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). “We have the antennas out. We still have to test out the communication payloads, and that will be an ongoing process.”

Launched June 24, the Lockheed Martin-built [LMT] satellite experienced the propulsion system “failure” five days later while moving from its initial orbit to its final orbit, the Navy has said.

MUOS-5 was launched as a spare for the new MUOS constellation, whose first four satellites provide ultra-high-frequency satellite communications for military operations. MUOS is designed to provide near-global, smartphone-like communications for mobile military forces, including aircraft, ships and ground troops. It is intended to eventually replace the aging Ultra High Frequency Follow-On (UFO) satellite system.

Also at the CSIS event, Becker said that a MUOS ground station in Sicily, Italy, has resumed operations after concerns with a local government were addressed. He also said that the Army and Navy have both made significant progress in acquiring terminals that can use MUOS.