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August 1st, 2015

Ready For Tomorrow's MUOS-4 Launch ULA Rolls Out A Party Of One 

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. (August 31, 2015) - A ULA Atlas V rocket with the Navy’s fourth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS-4), is rolled from the Vertical Integration Facility to the pad at Space Launch Complex-41. Credit: United Launch Alliance

[SatNews] Everything is progressing toward the ULA Atlas V carrying the U.S. Navy's fourth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS-4) satellite.

The launch countdown will begin at 11:09 p.m. this evening. The mission is set to lift on Wednesday, September 2 from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch window is 5:59-6:43 a.m. EDT. Today’s L-1 forecast shows a 80 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch.

The ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the MUOS-4 payload for the U.S. Navy is confirmed on the Eastern Range. Weather Forecast

  • Overall probability of violating weather constraints:  20 percent
  • Primary concern:  Cumulus Clouds
  • Overall probability of violating weather constraints for 24 hour delay:  30 percent
  • Primary concern:  Cumulus Clouds

United Launch Alliance (ULA) and the U.S. Air Force have demonstrated a commitment to innovation and continuous improvement through implementation of Off-site Vertical Integration (OVI) of several structural elements and the Centaur upper stage for the Atlas V launch vehicle. OVI significantly reduces the number of lifting operations performed at the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at Cape Canaveral, taking them off the critical path and allowing for reduced time between launches. Relocating these operations to the Delta Operations Center (DOC), an indoor facility, also mitigates risk of weather-related processing delays. 

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. (Aug. 31, 2015) - A ULA Atlas V rocket stands ready to launch the Navy's fourth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS-4) satellite at Cape Canaveral's Space Launch Complex-41. Credit: United Launch Alliance

“We are very pleased to have successfully completed the first Off-site Vertical Integration for the upcoming Mobile User Objective System launch. With OVI, the team developed an innovative process that provides safer and more efficient launch processing of the Atlas vehicle.” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Atlas and Delta Programs. “The associated one-week reduction in the launch-to-launch processing spans enables us to better meet the launch needs of our customers.” 

For a 500-series Atlas V rocket like the one launching the MUOS-4 mission, the OVI process accomplishes the integration of six structural elements along with the Centaur upper stage inside a test cell in the DOC, rather than conducting major portions of these complex hardware lifting and mating tasks outside at the VIF. Moving these operations inside provides a safer working environment for employees and mitigates weather impacts to launch schedules. In the last six years, there were 25 days of weather delays to launch vehicle stacking operations at the VIF.   

One of the innovations required to enable OVI was the development of a transporter to safely move the five-story stack of rocket hardware approximately six miles from the DOC to the VIF. The transporter includes a tank pressure control system for the Centaur upper stage.  

“The Off-site Vertical Integration process, including ground support equipment designs and operational procedures, were developed in collaboration with our Air Force customer to support launch manifest needs and enable continuous improvement to these critical launch operations,” said Sponnick.

The Navy’s Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) is a next-generation narrowband tactical satellite communications system designed using a combination of orbiting satellites and relay ground stations to significantly improve communications for U.S. forces on the move. MUOS will provide new beyond-line-of-sight secure communications capabilities, with smartphone-like simultaneous voice, video and data – to connect military users almost anywhere around the globe.

Launch Notes: MUOS-4 will mark the 56th Atlas V since the vehicle’s inaugural launch in August 2002 and the sixth in the 551 configuration. Previous missions launched on Atlas V 551 missions include three MUOS missions as well as the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Juno mission to Jupiter.