The fourth AEHF (Advanced Extremely High Frequency) protected communication satellite, built by Lockheed Martin for the U.S. Air Force, was successfully launched from the Space Launch Complex-41 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket at 12:15 a.m. on Oct. 17.
Lockheed Martin confirmed signal acquisition from the satellite at 3:47 a.m. ET.
The AEHF system provides global, survivable, highly secure and protected communications for strategic command and tactical warfighters operating on ground, sea and air platforms. The satellite will now move into a testing phase prior to hand over to the Air Force. With four satellites in orbit, the AEHF constellation completes a geostationary ring and will be able to deliver global coverage.
“It’s good to return with our mission partners to see the culmination of expertise, skill and partnership that we have worked diligently toward to make this AEHF launch a success,” said Mike Cacheiro, vice president of Protected Communication Systems at Lockheed Martin. “This is a substantial milestone for AEHF, and as we look ahead, we continue to improve and upgrade this mission to deliver these vital communications capabilities to the Air Force.”
AEHF also serves international partners including Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
Lockheed Martin is on contract with the Air Force to deliver the fifth and sixth satellites and upgraded the Mission Planning ground system. Lockheed Martin contributed payload system engineering, mission control ground software, solar arrays and the LM A2100 spacecraft bus, which is a dependable and low-risk platform for commercial, civil and military satellites. All AEHF satellites are assembled at the company’s Sunnyvale, Calif. facility.
One AEHF satellite provides greater total capacity than the entire legacy five-satellite Milstar constellation. Individual data rates increase five-fold, permitting transmission of tactical military communications, such as real-time video, battlefield maps and targeting data. In addition, AEHF affords national leaders anti-jam, always-on connectivity during all levels of conflict.
The AEHF team includes the U.S. Air Force Military Satellite Communications Systems Directorate at the Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Sunnyvale, Calif., is the AEHF prime contractor, space and ground segments provider as well as system integrator, with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Redondo Beach, Calif., as the payload provider.
The Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) 551 configuration vehicle includes a 5-meter large Payload Fairing (PLF) and stands 197 ft. tall.
Producing more than two and a half million pounds of thrust at liftoff, the Atlas V 551 configuration rocket is the most powerful in the Atlas V fleet. The 551 rocket has launched groundbreaking missions for our nation—from the critically important Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) constellation to historic science missions including New Horizons, the first mission to Pluto, and the Juno mission to Jupiter.
The launch of AEHF-4 marks ULA’s 50th launch for the U.S. Air Force; ULA’s first Air Force mission was Space Test Program-1 (STP-1), launched March 8, 2007. AEHF-4 is ULA’s eighth launch in 2018 and 131st successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.
ULA’s next launch is the NROL-71 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) on a Delta IV Heavy rocket. The launch is scheduled for Nov. 29 from Space Launch Complex-6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.