A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in its 551 configuration, boosted the U.S. Navy MUOS comsat to orbit this morning. Liftoff of the most powerful version of Atlas rocket, with a 5 meter fairing and five strap on solid rocket boosters was briefly delayed due to high winds, but ultimately lifted off at 9:00 am EST carrying the 15,000 lb. Mobile User Objective System Satellite MUOS-2, on the way to a three-part upper stage burn to geosynchronous transfer orbit.
Once on station, the second satellite in the fleet of five MUOS spacecraft fleet will provide Ultra High Frequency narrowband communications for all U.S. armed forces, helping to replace the aging previous generation of satellites.
Today’s launch marks the 39th flight of the Atlas V booster, extending its flawless record, as well as the heaviest satellite it has yet carried. All Atlas -V flights are powered by the Russian built RD-180 main engine, and ULA’s efforts to prevent other providers from acquiring the engine have drawn the attention of the both the Federal Trade Commission, which is currently investigating alleged anti-competitive practices, as well as a multi hundred million dollar lawsuit from Orbital Sciences Corporation, which has sought to acquire the RD-180 for future versions of its Antares booster.