US military satellites tame the Arctic

Thursday, 15 May, 2014


Analysis of Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellites during the US Navy’s 2014 Ice Exercise (ICEX) shows they provided nearly 150 hours of secure data connections. This was the first time military users have been able to transfer multimegabyte data files over stable satellite connections in the Arctic.

Working atop a floating ice camp above the Arctic Circle, a team from Lockheed Martin provided secure satellite communications and delivered further evidence that MUOS is a reliable asset in the far north.

“Last year we proved the constellation’s reach, but this is the first time MUOS has been used for secure government exercises,” said Paul Scearce, director of Military Space Advanced Programs at Lockheed Martin. “This means users could traverse the globe using one radio, without needing to switch out because of different coverage areas. This goes far in increasing the value that MUOS provides mobile users, not just in traditional theatres of operation, but those at the furthest extents of the planet.”

Lockheed Martin first demonstrated the MUOS constellation’s ability to reach Arctic users in tests during 2013. Those tests marked a significant gain in signal reach from the required latitude of 65° north - roughly Fairbanks, Alaska. This expansion in coverage, inherent with the system, comes at a time when governments are focusing on Arctic security.

“We downloaded multiple files - up to 20 megabytes - nearly at the top of the world,” said Dr Amy Sun, Narrowband Advanced Programs lead at Lockheed Martin. “We sent a steady stream of photos, maps and other large data pieces securely through the system, something that could never be done by legacy communication satellites.”

From 17 to 27 March, MUOS provided over 8800 minutes of service to Ice Camp Nautilus. US Navy users at the camp could connect to both secure and classified communication systems and send data files. US and Canadian officials monitored the activities as part of ICEX, an annual Arctic submarine exercise.

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