Budget constraints delay Space Force’s narrowband satellite efforts | Space


The launch of the Space Force’s next Mobile User Objective System satellite will be delayed to fiscal year 2031 from FY30, C4ISRNET has learned.

The schedule change is linked to its decision to move funding toward higher priority programs and a longer-than-expected process to choose whether Boeing or Lockheed Martin will build the satellites.

“This was a fact of life change,” Space Systems Command spokesman Edgar Nava said in an April 1 email. “The projected launch date of the first MUOS satellite is expected to shift into FY31 based on the delayed contract award and service funding priorities.”

MUOS satellites provide global voice and data capabilities to military forces. The spacecraft operate in a narrowband frequency range that makes them less susceptible to bad weather or tricky terrain — variables that can impact a satellite’s performance. The range is also ideal for secure data transmission.

The Space Force has four operational MUOS satellites in orbit and one spare, all built by Lockheed Martin. Each carries two payloads — one that maintains a legacy Ultra High Frequency network and another that offers a new Wideband Code Division Multiple Access capability. The system provides 10 times the capacity of its predecessor, dubbed the UHF Follow-on system.

The Navy, which is one of the heaviest users of the satellites, oversaw the program for years before it transferred to the Space Force after the service was created in 2019.

The Space Force is crafting a long-awaited strategy for what capability will follow MUOS, but in the meantime plans to launch two more satellites to keep the constellation operational through at least 2035.

In January, the service awarded Lockheed and Boeing each a $66 million contract to design prototypes of the two spacecraft by July 2025. The Space Force had planned to choose one of the two companies by the end of FY25 to build the satellites, but that decision has been pushed to FY26.

The service’s FY25 budget includes…

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