Ice Camp Nautilus

Navy tests satellite connection in the Arctic

For the first time, military users have demonstrated they can transfer large megabyte data files over stable satellite connections in the Arctic.

During the Navy's 2014 Ice Exercise, the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellites provided nearly 150 hours of secure data connections.

Satellite communications in the Arctic are becoming increasingly important as the polar ice sheet shrinks and shipping traffic increases. Most geosynchronous satellites can’t reach users in the Arctic.

MUOS is a next-generation narrowband tactical satellite communications system designed to significantly improve ground communications for U.S. forces on the move. MUOS gives military users more communications capability over existing systems, including simultaneous voice, video and data.

From March 17 to 27, MUOS provided over 8,800 minutes of service to Ice Camp Nautilus. Navy users at the camp could connect to both secure and classified communication systems and send data files.

"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, the MUOS prime contractor and systems integrator. "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 theaters 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 degrees 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."

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