The U.S. Space Force’s (USSF) Space and Missile Systems Center successfully delivered the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF)-6 satellite to the Astrotech Space Operations processing facility in Titusville, Florida, Jan. 12.
The enormous satellite was transported from the Lockheed Martin Space Systems Center satellite integration facility in Sunnyvale, California, via a C-5MSuper Galaxy aircraft, on Jan. 11. The C-5 crew from the U.S. Air Force (USAF)’s 22nd Airlift Squadron based at Travis Air Force Base in California ensured that the satellite was transported safely and according to the time-sensitive schedule.
“The delivery of the last AEHF satellite comes at an inflection point, as the first delivery of the USSF for launch,” said Lt. Col. Paul La Tour, AEHF Space Segment materiel leader.
“The successful delivery of AEHF-6 is a significant achievement for the program, it brings us another step closer to delivering mission critical capabilities to the warfighter,” said Mr. Cordell DeLaPena, Program Executive Officer for Space Production. “AEHF is an important asset to our sea, air, and ground missions and thanks to outstanding teamwork, innovation, and partnership we are ready to begin launch processing for the final AEHF space vehicle.”
The C-5 was built to carry more cargo around the globe than any other U.S. military aircraft. It can lift more than a quarter-million pounds, and the approximately 34,000-cubic-foot cargo bay is large enough to contain six helicopters. The Air Force converted two C-5As to C-5C status, modifying them to carry “space containers” that safely transport satellites and other payloads. This flight was a regular C-5M aircraft; however, the container carrying the satellite was specifically built for a C-5M and it fits in the cargo area with only inches to spare.
“The C-5M Super Galaxy provides an unmatched strategic airlift capability whether it be delivering cargo directly to the warfighter, in response to humanitarian crises, or for specialized outsized cargo like the transportation of this AEHF-6 satellite” said Capt. Adam Smith, 22nd Airlift Squadron pilot and aircraft commander for the AEHF-6 delivery. “The whole “Double Deuce” (22AS) team takes great pride in delivering cargo to all of our users safely and efficiently; and make no mistake it is a team effort for not only the 22nd AS but also in partnership with the 60th Maintenance Group and the 312th Airlift Squadron from Air Force Reserve Command.”
As the anchor satellite of the constellation, AEHF-6 is now on the path for final space vehicle checkout before launch. A combined government and contractor team is preparing to execute the final ground activities, including a Launch Base Confidence Test to verify satellite integrity after shipment, an intersegment test to verify communication compatibility from the satellite to the ground operations center, and the final battery reconditioning for launch.
Following these activities, the satellite will be fueled and prepared for integration with the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V launch vehicle. AEHF-6 is slated to launch in March 2020.
The AEHF system is designed to augment and improve on the already existing Milstar constellation by providing enhanced survivable, global, secure, protected, and jam-resistant communications for high-priority military ground, sea and air assets.
The AEHF program hit another recent milestone when AEHF-4 satellite, which was launched in 2018, was accepted for operational use by U.S. Space Command on Jan 6. Combined Force Space Component Command will begin mission activation of AEHF-4 and transition of operational users to the system.