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Recently launched Navy satellite has problem in orbit

Problem puts progress on hold

On Dec. 5, 2014, a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying NASA's Orion capsule launched from Cape Canaveral on the Exploration Flight Test-1 test flight  (Photo: United Launch Alliance)
On Dec. 5, 2014, a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying NASA's Orion capsule launched from Cape Canaveral on the Exploration Flight Test-1 test flight (Photo: United Launch Alliance)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Two weeks after launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, a military communications satellite has run into trouble before reaching its final orbit, the Navy reported Friday.

News 6 partner Florida Today said the Navy’s fifth Mobile User Objective System satellite, or MUOS-5, was gradually maneuvering itself to an orbit 22,300 miles over the equator when an unspecified problem put its progress on hold.

“The satellite experienced an anomaly that required the transfer maneuver to be temporarily halted,” said Steven Davis, a spokesman for the Naval Warfare Systems Command.

The Navy and satellite-builder Lockheed Martin offered no further detail on the technical problem or exactly when it occurred.

“Nothing is more important to Lockheed Martin than mission success,” said Chip Eschenfelder, a company spokesman. “We are working closely with our Navy customer to determine the cause of the anomaly.”

Launched June 24 by United Launch Alliance’s most powerful Atlas V rocket, the 15,000-pound satellite is the last in a constellation designed to upgrade communications for mobile troops with smartphone-like capabilities to talk and send messages simultaneously from almost anywhere on the globe.

The spacecraft is supposed to actively support an older satellite network while serving as a spare in orbit for the more modern features, which won’t be widely available for a year or two because of delays developing compatible ground radios.

MUOS-5 had been expected to reach a position above Hawaii to begin tests this past Sunday.

The Navy said it has reprogrammed the satellite into a “stabilized, safe intermediate orbit to allow the MUOS team to evaluate the situation and determine options for proceeding,” and that the delay reaching the proper orbit won't impact Department of Defense satellite communications.

The $7.7 billion MUOS program includes the five satellites, each designed to last at least 15 years, four ground stations and relates software.

The satellites are equipped with large, unfurlable mesh antennas provided by Melbourne-based Harris Corp.