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United Launch Alliance rocket blasts off.

An unmanned Atlas 5 rocket blasted off from Florida on Wednesday to put a next-generation communications satellite into orbit for the U.S. military.
The 20-story tall rocket, manufactured and launched by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co., lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 6:18 a.m. EDT.
Perched on top of the rocket was the fourth satellite in the U.S. Navy’s $7.3 billion Mobile User Objective System, or MUOS, network, which is intended to provide 3G-cellular technology to vehicles, ships, submarines, aircraft and troops on the move.
“MUOS works like a smartphone network in space, vastly improving secure satellite communications for mobile users,” said Paul Benishek, a deputy director with the Navy’s Communications Satellite Program Office, said during a launch webcast.
The satellites are designed to provide secure voice conversations, networked conference calls and data relay services, including video, worldwide. They work like cell phone towers, with four ground stations handling switching and routing.
The MUOS network will supplement and eventually replace the Navy’s Ultra High Frequency Follow-On satellite system to provide 16 times more capacity than the current network, the Navy said.
“MUOS is a game-changer in communications for every branch of our military,” said Iris Bombelyn, vice president of Narrowband Communications at Lockheed Martin, which built the satellites.
Topping the scales at nearly 15,000 pounds (6,804 kg), the MUOS satellite needed the most powerful version of the Atlas rocket, which was outfitted with five strap-on solid rocket motors built by GenCorp Inc’s Aerojet Rocketdyne.
The MUOS satellite launched on Wednesday completes the operational system. A fifth spacecraft is slated for launch in July 2016 to serve as an on-orbit spare, the Navy said.

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