Saturday, March 12, 2016

MUOS 4 recovered at 75 E

MUOS 4 at 74.8 E on 8 March 2016
image (c) by Greg Roberts, South Africa
(click to enlarge)

In a recent post I wrote that MUOS 4 (2015-044A) had left it's check-out position at 172 W near Hawaii late January, drifting westwards. I presumed that it was being moved to its assigned operational spot at 75 E, over the Indian Ocean just south of India.

This is now confirmed. On 8 March 2016, Greg Roberts from Cape Town, South Africa, recovered MUOS 4 at 74.8 E. Greg's recovery image (used with his permission) is above. As I wrote before, it probably arrived there on 29 February 2016, after a 37-day drift westwards at a rate of ~3 degrees/day.

With four satellites at their operational positions, the MUOS constellation is now complete.

MUOS 1   2012-09A       177 W  Pacific
MUOS 2   2013-036A      100 W  CONUS
MUOS 3   2015-002A     15.8 W  Atlantic

MUOS 4   2015-044A       75 E  Indian


However, one more MUOS satellite will be launched. This fifth satellite will be parked at 72 E and will function as an on-orbit spare, in case one of the other four MUOS satellites malfunctions on-orbit.



(click to enlarge)


As can be seen in the illustrations above, the MUOS satellites are separated by ~90 degrees in longitude, but with a slightly bigger gap (~108 degrees) between MUOS 1 and MUOS 4, a gap representing the Pacific. The latter is probably in order to assure access to/from at least two ground facilities, with Hawaii and California serving MUOS 1. The latter would not have been possible with MUOS 1 at ~90 rather than 108 degrees from MUOS 4. MUOS ground facilities are indicated by yellow squares in the map above.

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