The United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched a satellite for the US Navy early Wednesday morning and the scene was rather picturesque.
In this launch, an Atlas V took another Mobile User Objective System satellite to orbit. This was the fourth in the MUOS satellite constellation the Navy will use for its state-of-the-art narrowband tactical communications. The collection of satellites and stations on the ground will support MUOS communications, providing a new system of military correspondence. Military members will use “smartphone-like” devices from all around the world.
This launch, with its pretty trail, was powered by an RD AMROSS RD-180 engine. Any new contracts for RD-180 engines, which are Russian made, have been prohibited by congressional legislation in response to Russian territorial aggressions but the ULA has relies on them for their Atlas launches.