MUOS-1 is slated to launch atop an Atlas-V rocket from Cape Canaveral SLC-41 late Thursday afternoon; 5:46 p.m. to be exact, with the launch window extending to 6:30 p.m. The current weather forecast calls for an 80% chance of favorable conditions at T-zero, with the only concern being a threat of cloud cover violating launch criteria.
MUOS-1 is the first in a series of five satellites to be launched as part of the U.S. NAVY's Mobile User Objective System (MUOS). The next-generation tactical communications satellite system will dramatically improve ground communications to U.S. forces on the move wordwide. MUOS-1 will eventually replace the current UHF SATCOM system, providing U.S. armed forces with 10 times more communications capability over existing systems, allowing for (among many other things) improved connectivity in harsh environments such as canyons, jungles, mountains, and areas experiencing severe weather phenomenon. Leveraging 3G mobile communications technology, MUOS will also allow the capability for simultaneous voice, data, and video communications.
This launch should prove to be quite impressive with it being a sunset lift off, and the vehicle itself will thunder into orbit under the power of 5 solid rocket boosters. That being said, this launch is expected to be rather colorful and visually stunning compared to others. For those wanting to view the launch in person, it's recommended that you head to Port Canaveral. Usually Playalinda Beach would be the ideal place to be for an Atlas rocket launch, but with the park closing at 6:00 p.m. and the launch occuring at 5:46 it is a gamble - should the launch delay you would still have to be out of the park by 6:00. Anywhere along the SR-528 Bennett Causeway on the approach to Port Canaveral would work, offering an unobstructed view of the rocket's climb to orbit. You could also take Exit A at Port Canaveral and head around the back of the port to view the launch (Route 401).
MUOS-1 will be the second rocket launch of 2012 from Cape Canaveral AFS.
(Photo Credit: A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket stands on the launch pad for the MUOS-1 mission. Credit: Mike Killian / Zero-G News")