CHARLESTON, SC (CBS/WCSC) - Several people in the Lowcountry say they spotted a strange white object moving through the sky just after 6:30 a.m. Wednesday. While some may have thought it was a comet or a UFO, it turned out to be a Navy communications satellite being launched into space.
"Just saw what looks to be an asteroid or meteor coming from south to east over James island. It was breaking apart as it flew by," said one viewer told Live 5 News.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket launched a high power Navy Communications satellite into orbit as it left Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex at 6:18 a.m.
The satellite, called a Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), was made to strengthen communication between military users almost anywhere around the globe. It was built by Lockheed Martin.
"MUOS will provide crystal-clear voice communications where the users on a line will be able to recognize each others voices," Iris Bombelyn, a Lockheed Martin vice president, told reporters in a pre-launch conference call. "It is better than your cell phone and ... this is very important for our war fighters," Iris Bombelyn, a Lockheed Martin vice president, told reporters in a pre-launch conference call.
The system is the fourth of its kind launched into orbit. According to officials, a fifth one will be launched next year. The new satellites eventually will replace the Navy's older UHF comsats.
Officials say the launch was postponed for two days because of concerns about then-Tropical Storm Erica.