Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Space Exploration 




1. What is PEO Space Systems?
Headquartered in San Diego, the Navy’s Program Executive Office (PEO) Space Systems is an Echelon II acquisition organization chartered by the Secretary of the Navy as the sole executive agent to develop, deploy, sustain, provide engineering support and influence space-based capabilities for naval, joint and allied operations. This includes advanced Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) narrowband communication satellites and associated ground systems, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems, weather systems and space related science and technology efforts. PMW 146 reports to PEO Space Systems on the Navy’s Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) and UHF Follow-On (UFO) programs. PEO Space Systems reports directly to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition.

2. What are PEO Space Systems’ mission and vision?
The PEO Space Systems’ mission is to “Acquire, deploy, sustain, and influence space-based capabilities for Naval, Joint, and Allied Operations.”

The vision is for PEO Space Systems is “Integrated Naval information warfare from space.”

3. What is the Navy’s role in the DoD space program?
The Navy, with its unique needs for communications at sea, has a rich and successful heritage in space that began in 1955 with the first American satellite program, Vanguard. In 1957, the Navy constructed the first complete satellite-launching facility at Cape Canaveral, Fla., where Vanguard I, the world’s longest orbiting satellite, was launched in 1958.

Although the Air Force oversees most DoD space system acquisition, the Navy is responsible for DoD UHF narrowband satellite communications (SATCOM). The UHF spectrum is the military’s communications workhorse for disadvantaged, tactical warfighters on-the-move, as it is the most effective SATCOM frequency for penetrating jungle foliage, inclement weather and urban terrain.

4. What is PMW 146?
The Navy Communications Satellite Program Office, PMW 146, is based in San Diego and is responsible for managing narrowband communication satellite systems acquisition, integration, production, launch, test and provides operational support DoD, various U.S. agencies, joint and coalition forces. This small team of approximately 40 military and civilian personnel with support from the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command leverages the latest commercial advances in terrestrial and satellite technology to greatly expand communications opportunities and capability.

PMW 146 reports to PEO Space Systems on the Navy’s MUOS and UHF Follow-On (UFO) programs.

5. What programs do PEO Space Systems and PMW 146 manage?
Programs in the PEO and program office portfolio include the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), legacy satellite programs (including Ultra High Frequency Follow-On (UFO) program), the Leased Satellite (LEASAT), the Fleet Satellite (FLTSAT), the Skynet 5C satellite and science and technology initiatives such as nano satellites.

6. Who are PEO Space Systems’ and PMW 146’s partners?
PEO Space Systems and PMW 146 work with stakeholders from across government and industry, with some of the primary partnerships including the following program executive offices, systems commands and program offices: 

Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications – Tactical (Army PEO C3T)

- Project Manager Tactical Radios (PM TR)
- Project Manager Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (PM WIN-T)



7. How is MUOS different than existing systems?
MUOS allows forces all over the world to talk, text and share mission data seamlessly without having to worry about where they are in relation to a satellite. It will provide greater than 10 times the communications bandwidth capacity compared with the current UHF constellation.

The system will provide a global smartphone-like capability that includes modern netcentric communications capabilities to smaller terminals while still supporting interoperability with legacy terminals. The advanced MUOS payload is designed to support users that require greater mobility, higher data rates, access to Defense Information Systems Network (DISN) voice and data services, and improved operational availability.

MUOS provides a shared “bandwidth on demand” architecture controlled by network planning and management, as opposed to previous systems that involved specifically designate channels. This allows a significant increase in capacity over legacy systems. Services may be quickly activated as needed by users in the field and then released just as easily, freeing resources for other users.

8. How does MUOS work?
MUOS adapts a commercial third generation Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) cellular technology with geosynchronous satellites to provide a new and more capable UHF military SATCOM system. The MUOS program includes a satellite constellation of four operational satellites (plus one on-orbit spare), a ground control and network management system, and the new WCDMA waveform for user terminals. The infrastructure to both fly the satellites and control access of the users’ communications is managed from the ground. Information travels via UHF WCDMA to one of the ground stations, then is uplinked to the MUOS satellite before travelling to users anywhere in the world.

9. What milestones has the MUOS program accomplished?
In 2012, PMW 146 was assigned as the single government lead responsible for delivering the end-to-end MUOS system capability including the teleport segment for access to DISN and user terminals. On Feb. 24, 2012, the first MUOS satellite, MUOS-1, successfully launched into space from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

In early 2013, PRC-155 radios successfully completed the first WCDMA voice and data calls using the on-orbit MUOS-1 satellite and routed through the Hawaii ground station. On July 19, 2013, MUOS-2 launched into space aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

In August 2014, during the North Command Arctic Shield Exercise onboard Coast Guard Cutter Healy, the commanding officer stated, “MUOS is a very capable system and would appear to almost completely solve our high latitude communications issues.”

In another 2014 exercise with an Air Force C-17 aircraft, MUOS achieved the first demonstration of a continuous real time aircraft and mission data link to Air Mobility Command Mission Data Center and the first interoperability between two different MUOS radios (PRC-155 and ARC-210).

In November 2014, MUOS provided simultaneous voice and data communications between McMurdo Station, Antarctica; the National Science Foundation Headquarters in Christchurch, New Zealand; Space and Naval Warfare System Center Pacific, San Diego; and C-17s in flight. Additionally, Navy Special Warfare Command executed operationally relevant scenario based testing, demonstrating MUOS tactical communications capability with operational Navy personnel.

On Jan. 20, 2015, MUOS-3 launched into space from Cape Canaveral and the launch of MUOS-4 took place on Sept. 2, 2015. MUOS-5 successfully launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 on June 24, 2016.

10. What are the types of terminals that will use MUOS? What’s the difference between a terminal and radio?
The first terminal to use the new MUOS WCDMA waveform is the Army’s Handheld Manpack Small Form Fit radio, or AN/PRC-155 (the terms "terminal" and "radio" are often used interchangeably). In early 2013, PRC-155 radios successfully completed the first WCDMA voice and data calls using the on-orbit MUOS-1 satellite and routed through the Hawaii ground station. PMW 146, together with MUOS partners, is also testing the PRC-117G Digital Modular Radio (DMR), the USC-61C and the ARC-210 Gen 5.

Several legacy software-defined radios are undergoing developmental upgrades and waveform integration via both formal acquisition programs and internal research and development endeavors that will provide the MUOS capability to all warfighting segments including maritime, fixed and airborne platforms.

11. How will MUOS impact warfighters on the ground?
The system will provide a global, smartphone-like capability to warfighters on the ground, enabling troops all over the world to talk, text and share mission data seamlessly without having to worry about where they are in relation to a satellite. It will provide greater than 10 times the communications bandwidth capacity over the legacy UHF constellation.

12. Who will the users (service branches/nations/etc.) be of MUOS?
Original plans for the MUOS WCDMA capability limited use to service branches of the Department of Defense. In November 2015, U.S. Strategic Command announced a decision to allow allied nations access to the WCDMA payload on the MUOS satellites.



13. What are nano satellites and what capabilities do they provide? Who will use nano satellites,and how?
Nano satellites are small satellites launched into orbit when a larger satellite mission has spare room, similar to riding on a space-available airline flight. Once the primary space mission separates from the launch vehicle, the nano satellites are deployed from a spring-loaded canister. Nano satellites can provide capabilities in communications, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, environmental monitoring and other missions. The primary intended users of nano satellites are members of the fleet – particularly members of Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command and naval units operating around the polar regions. 

14. How small are nano satellites?
Nano satellites are less than a foot long and weigh less than 25 pounds.

15. What is a CubeSat?
A CubeSate is a type of miniaturized satellite, which was developed as a low-cost means to teach university students how to develop space systems. CubeSats were originally 10 centimeters on each side and weighed less than a kilogram. That size was later called one unit, or “1U,” and larger sizes were developed. Now 3U is common and many organizations are building 6U or larger satellites.



16. What is the Ultra-High Frequency Follow-On (UFO) program?
The Ultra-High Frequency Follow-On program, or UFO, is a constellation of eight on-orbit geosynchronous communications satellites that provides tactical narrowband UHF satellite communications to all of the Defense Department and other government agencies. UFO achieved Initial Operational Capability in 1993 and Full Operational Capability in 2000.

17. What is the Leased Satellite (LEASAT)?
The Leased Satellite, or LEASAT, was a dedicated Defense Department UHF satellite in use from 1990 to 2015. The satellite reached its end of life in September 2015.

18. What is the Fleet Satellite (FLTSAT)?
An outgrowth of the Lincoln Experimental Satellite series and TACSAT-1, the Fleet Satellite, or FLTSAT, was developed by the Navy to be the first complete operational system in space to serve the tactical user. With two satellites currently on orbit, the FLTSAT program provides critical augmentation to the UFO system.

19. What is the Skynet 5C Satellite?
Skynet refers to the commercial lease agreement of UHF services on the Skynet 5C satellite. In January 2008, PMW 146 was directed to procure a sole source firm-fixed-price contract to Intelsat General Corp., to lease UHF services on Skynet 5 in FY09. In January 2009, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command executed a firm-fixed-price contract to Intelsat General Corporation to lease two 25 kHz UHF channels and has since added one additional 25 kHz channel in August 2009; currently leasing three 25 kHz UHF channels.


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