United Launch Alliance Set to Launch AEHF-4 Communications Satellite for U.S. Air Force

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket is scheduled to launch the AEHF-4 communications satellite for the U.S. Air Force from the Space Launch Complex-41 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Oct. 17.

The two-hour launch window opens at 12:15 a.m. EDT, and the live launch broadcast will begin Oct. 16 at 11:55 p.m. EDT at www.ulalaunch.com.

“ULA continues to serve as our nation’s most dependable and successful launch provider,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. “We are proud to launch this critical satellite for the U.S. Air Force, and demonstrate our strong support of our nation’s national defense and the warfighter community.”

The Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) system, developed by Lockheed Martin, provides vastly improved global, survivable, protected communications capabilities for strategic command and tactical warfighters. The satellite was encapsulated into its payload fairing on Sept. 26.

“This fourth satellite will complete a worldwide ring of AEHF satellites to deliver global extended data rate (XDR) coverage for the U.S. Air Force and for the partner nations – Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom – that also connect to the AEHF network,” said Mike Cacheiro, Lockheed Martin vice president of protected communications. “The Silicon Valley-based team that built this satellite can’t wait to see it lift off. And in the meantime, we’re making great progress on producing the fifth and sixth satellites in the constellation.”

AEHF Satellite

AEHF communications are jam-proof and offer low probability of detection or interception, and the four AEHF satellite constellation will be able to deliver that capability worldwide. The satellite enables military communications with real-time video, battlefield maps and targeting data, boosted by a five-fold increase in individual user data rates.

The AEHF system provides vastly improved global, survivable, highly secure, protected communications for strategic command and tactical warfighters operating on ground, sea and air platforms. A single AEHF satellite provides greater total capacity than the entire legacy five-satellite Milstar constellation.

Lockheed Martin manufactured the AEHF-4 satellite at its Sunnyvale, California facility. The satellite was delivered to Florida on July 27, 2018.

The AEHF team is led by the MILSATCOM Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. Lockheed Martin is the primary contractor, Northrop Grumman is the payload manufacturer. Air Force Space Command operates the AEHF system.

Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite
Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite

Atlas V Rocket

This mission will launch aboard an Atlas V 551 configuration vehicle, which includes a 5-meter large Payload Fairing (PLF) and stands 197 ft. tall. The Atlas booster for this mission is powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine. Aerojet Rocketdyne provided the five AJ-60A solid rocket boosters (SRBs) and RL10C-1 engine for the Centaur upper stage.

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 Atlas V 551 configuration first launched on Jan. 19, 2006, and has launched eight times to date.

To date ULA has a track record of 100% mission success with 130 successful launches.

ULA Atlas V Rocket Lifts Off with AFSPC-11 Mission
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the Air Force Space Command 11 (AFSPC-11) mission lifts off at 7:13 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex-41 (SLC-41) at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida on April 14, 2018.

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