U.S. Air Force’s Enhanced Polar System Declared Fully Operational

The Enhanced Polar System (EPS) was declared operational and handed over to operators at the U.S. Air Force’s 4th Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, following months of on-orbit check out and the successful completion of a Multiservice Operational Test and Evaluation (MOT&E).

EPS is a polar adjunct to the Advanced Extreme High Frequency (AEHF) system providing Military Satellite Communications coverage at latitudes of 65 degrees north and above.

During the MOT&E, a number of criteria and metrics were evaluated including overall system performance. Once the evaluation was completed, the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Command (AFOTEC) with support from the Navy and the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) looked at whether there were any deficiencies in system performance and any liens against system performance that the program office needed to correct. For EPS, both the AFOTEC and the DOT&E reports concluded that EPS was operationally effective and suitable with no identified deficiencies or liens, rare for a system of this type.

On Sept. 19, 4th SOPS officially took command of EPS. A ceremony was held on Sept. 25 with Lt. Col. Kenny Smith, EPS materiel leader and Lt. Col. Tim Ryan, 4th SOPS commander presiding. To commemorate the event a ceremonial “Arctic” key was passed from SMC to 4th SOPS to mark the transfer of the satellite’s operational control.

The U.S. Air Force’s EPS system is the next-generation SATCOM system that provides 24/7 secure, jam-resistant extremely high frequency (EHF) satellite communications coverage to forces in the North Polar Region (above 65 degrees north latitude) in support of U.S. national objectives. It will replace the current Interim Polar System (IPS) and serve as a polar adjunct to the Advanced EHF (AEHF) system, i.e., it provides coverage north of AEHF’s coverage area.

EPS also makes use of an AEHF Extended Data Rate Wave Form. Compared to legacy systems, EPS provides higher capacity, higher throughput data rates, and enhanced interconnectivity between the EPS satellites and mid-latitude users through the EPS Gateway at Clear Air Force Station, Alaska.

The EPS satellites sit in the Molniya orbit, a more highly inclined orbit than a geosynchronous orbit that enables satellites to provide better coverage for the northern part of the Earth. A satellite in a geosynchronous orbit sits above Earth’s equator and follows the direction of it, meaning the satellite appears to sit above the same place on Earth. Users who are above 65 degrees (latitude) don’t receive good signal strength in the case of geo-orbit satellites.

Due to EPS’s Highly Elliptical Orbit, one payload is providing coverage over the polar region while the other is swinging around the earth and out of view of the ground station. The recent milestone marks the availability of both EPS payloads for the warfighter to use.

Enhanced Polar System Gateway at Clear AFS
The Enhanced Polar System (EPS) Gateway at Clear Air Force Station, Alaska provides interconnectivity between the EPS satellites and mid-latitude users. EPS is a polar adjunct to the Advanced EHF (AEHF) system providing MILSATCOM coverage at latitudes 65 degrees N and above. (U.S Air Force Photo)

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