Tag Archives: United Launch Alliance

How to Play the Game

A SpaceX Falcon rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May , 2017 to boost a classified spy satellite into orbit for the U.S. military, then turned around and touched down at a nearby landing pad.

It was the 34th mission for SpaceX, but its first flight for the Department of Defense, a customer long-pursued by company founder Elon Musk. The privately owned SpaceX once sued the Air Force over its exclusive launch services contract with United Launch Alliance (ULA), a partnership of Lockheed-Martin and Boeing.)  The liftoff of a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) officially broke ULA’s 10-year monopoly on launching U.S. military and national security satellites.

In addition to the NRO’s business, SpaceX has won two Air Force contracts to launch Global Positioning System satellites in 2018 and 2019.  For now, the military’s business is a fraction of more than 70 missions, worth more than $10 billion, slated to fly on SpaceX rockets. But with up to 13 more military satellite launches open for competitive bidding in the next few years and ULA’s lucrative sole-source contract due to end in 2019, SpaceX is angling to become a majo launch service provider to the Department of Defense.

A month ago, SpaceX for the first time launched one of its previously flown rockets to send an SES communications satellite into orbit, a key step in Musk’s quest to demonstrate reusability and slash launch costs.

Excertps, SpaceX Launches US Spy Satellite on Secret Mission, Nails Rocket Landing, Space.com, May 1, 2017

Satellites: from UFO to MUOS

The first Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite [see above], built by Lockheed Martin for the U.S. Navy, was successfully launched today from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.  The MUOS constellation will replace the legacy Ultra High Frequency Follow-On (UFO) system and provide significantly improved assured communications, including simultaneous voice, video and data, for mobile warfighters.

“MUOS is a revolutionary new satellite system that will provide unprecedented new communications capabilities for the armed forces,” said Kevin Bilger, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager of Global Communications Systems. “We look forward to executing a smooth and efficient on-orbit checkout, paving the way for operational use.”  MUOS satellites feature a wideband code division multiple access payload that incorporates advanced technology to provide a 16-fold increase in transmission throughput over the current UFO satellite system. A single MUOS satellite will provide four times the capacity of the entire legacy UFO constellation of 10 satellites. The satellites also include a hosted legacy UHF payload that will be fully compatible with the current UFO system and legacy terminals.

The first MUOS satellite and associated ground system will provide initial on-orbit capability this year with the four-satellite global constellation achieving full operational capability in 2015, extending UHF narrowband communications availability well past 2025.  Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Sunnyvale, Calif., is the MUOS prime contractor and system integrator. The Navy’s Program Executive Office for Space Systems, Chantilly, Va., and its Communications Satellite Program Office, San Diego, Calif., are responsible for the MUOS program.

New Military Communications Satellite Built by Lockheed Martin Launched Successfully, PR Newswire, Feb. 24, 2012

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