“Sicilian Nights” – MUOS: The Sequel
It’s been a few months, thought it’s time for an update on the Mobile User Objective System. Or MUOS, as it’s known in the biz. If this is your first time stumbling on the topic, I highly suggest you read this first. You wouldn’t read the second Twilight book first, right? That’s a hip, contemporary analogy, right? RIGHT?!!???
Rather than bog you down with superfluous words and ideas, let’s jump right into this 3G wonder of communication architecture. Really, since the last time we talked (spoiler alert) almost no news has developed on this $6.8 billion project. Ain’t that a B? The Government Accountability Office report from March has a shred of information. Nothing new, really. The project is delayed further.
Which in an odd bit of news, is the only thing that made it into the domestic information stream. Granted, their information appears to conflict with the federal story. Even so, it got a mention, which is better than every news outfit in America. Spaceflight Now mentions MUOS in passing, noting the first satellite is now scheduled to launch February 2012. Only problem is, the GAO touts an ‘on-orbit’ time for March 2012.
After each of the five satellites launches, it takes time for it to reach ‘on-orbit’ status. It’s essentially a giant modem, and it takes three months to boot up. So according to the GAO estimate, the satellite would launch in December of this year. When Spaceflight Now talks about a February ’12 launch, that means the system would be up and running in May of 2012. You’re beginning to see why this enormous project gets so little attention.
It’s a fucking mess.
Whether they get the first satellite in the air in December or next year, it is becoming a moot point. Originally slated to begin operating in 2009, it has been perpetually postponed into the future. Then 2010 was the year. It really was. General Dynamics, another megalith working on the program, even said so. Until it wasn’t.
Still, the Navy awards contracts. January’s winner was Astrotech, who will provide payload processing services. Whatever that is. I’m a cryptojournalist, not a scientist! Either was, there is not an apparent price tag on this contract, so good for Astrotech! Open ended business deals with the Federal government have the potential to be very lucrative.
So is that it? Astrotech has jumped aboard the MUOS program, and it’s been delayed again?
No. Not quite.
The Sicilian population in Niscemi is still amped. It’s pretty clear the local populace does not want this military installation. At a February city council meeting, citizens were again voicing their concerns about the possible health effects of the potential satellite site. The article is in Italian (of course), but here is a link to the English translation. On the heels of that, a protest was planned for the middle of March. (English link is here)
In a nutshell, Raffaele Lombardo, Sicily’s regional president, assured the populace that MUOS was safe. Students were highly skeptical and planned a protest.
After that, MUOS has had a couple of references in the Italian press. I would certainly suggest you read both articles. Not off those links, silly. They’re for Italian readers. Here is the English language link for the article from Il Pane e le Rose. Very interesting to see how our military allies perceive our tactics. La Valle dei Templi’s article shares the same sentiment. They’re not in love with the notion of being our Mediterranean fortress.
Which brings me to some of the problems confronting the MUOS program. Going back to the Live Sicilia article (translated of course), the author points out the next MUOS satellite array ‘should’ be in Niscemi. Meaning it is not yet set in stone. Meaning, worst case scenario, the array is never built.
That would be a major problem. Compare this to Australia, the other foreign locale for a MUOS array, where an agreement was reached in 2007 to host the program. In all likelihood the Italians will be along for the ride, albeit after some ruckus and much outcry against the program. EVEN THEN, there is a major, even at this point, a structural flaw, in the MUOS program.
Perhaps in 2004, with the program in its’ infancy, 3G was a good bet for future communication technology. It’s 2011. Basing ‘next-generation’ military systems on a commercial technology which has been rendered obsolete in the last year plus sounds like exactly what one should expect from the Federal government.
How would you feel if your significant other brought you home a (wait for it)………..drum roll………..BRAND NEW DVD PLAYER!!??!
Do you know how embarrassing it is to search for a photograph of a DVD player in this era?
Based on the recent promulgation of 4G technology, the Navy’s next-generation communication system is already obsolete. And at least two years behind schedule. While surpassing its’ initial budget costs.
Before I get ahead of myself, here are a few 4G vs. 3G videos to help you understand the difference. Sort of like Blu Ray vs. DVD, much of it is a matter of magnitude, rather than simply speed. 4G processes more information faster.
Here and here are links for the more literate type. Please note, the Computerworld and Denver Post articles are both from the end of 20100. I’ve taken aims to present videos from this year, as the 4G network has expanded since it first debuted. Make your own conclusion. Better yet, look into it yourself. Who knows what you might learn.
4G is the literal next generation of telecommunications. How could the Navy not anticipate this? Allow me to preposterously think aloud for a moment. I’m entitled to that, being the only cryptojournalist in the world to pay attention to this strange program. Do I believe the Navy was blindsided by the onset of 4G? No, definitely not. In fact, my women’s intuition leads me to believe they knew all along 4G would come up so quick.
With a 3G infrastructure in a 4G world, Navy’s going to need to upgrade. That’s future revenue. MUOS, if and when it’s actually completed, will work alright, but will soon be ripe for a 4G upgrade, which amounts to more money.
It all leads me to one question. Why am I surprised there is a media blackout on this multi-billion dollar global defense program? Gathering information on the MUOS program is not something that should fall to a cryptojournalist. Make my words, after all is said and done, MUOS will prove to be nothing more than the world’s most expensive DVD player. And nobody will notice.