US Navy launches MUOS-3 satellite to support ground troops

The launch of the third Mobile User Object Satellite or MUOS-3 may be downplayed by some because of its purpose of assisting, and therefore furthering, warfighting but the moment is also of significance to rocket science and engineering. The satellite has so far been the heaviest payload that the Altas V launch system has ever had to carry, testifying to the system's capability and the rocket's durability. It also marked the 200th launch of the Centaur upper stage on the Atlas in it's nearly 50 year run.

The MUOS-3 satellite itself weighed 7.5 tons. To counteract that, the Atlas V had to generate more than 2.5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. The specific vehicle used was the Atlas V Evolved Expanded Launch Vehicle 551 configuration. The EELV was developed by the US Air Force specifically for putting government payloads into space. In terms of records, this is the 52nd Altas V launch but only the 5th for the specific 551 vehicle.

The launch was provided by United Launch Alliance or ULA, which has been providing its services for more than a century. Within that time, it has launched over 90 satellites not only for government purposes but also weather tracking for meteorologists, GPS navigation, or even helping astronomers and scientists learn more about the solar system. This launch is ULA's first for 2015.

The purpose of the MUOS-3 is, of course, very specific. Its ultra high frequency satellite communications will provide coordination with US forces on the ground anywhere on the globe. ULA's next scheduled launch will be for more scientific purposes, launching a Delta II Soil Moisture Active Passive or SMAP for NASA on January 29.

SOURCE: United Launch Alliance