Lockheed Martin-built protected comms satellite now in transfer orbit

Stephen Kuper

The US Air Forces fourth Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base is now ‘talking’ with the fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-5) protected communication satellite after its successful launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The Lockheed Martin-built AEHF-5 satellite is now responding to the squadron's commands as planned. The squadron began 'flying' the satellite shortly after it separated from its United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket approximately five hours and 40 minutes after the rocket's successful 6:13am ET lift-off.

AEHF-5 completes a geostationary ring of five satellites delivering global coverage for survivable, highly secure and protected communications for strategic command and tactical warfighters operating on ground, sea and air platforms.

Besides US forces, AEHF also serves international partners including Canada, the Netherlands and the UK.

Mike Cacheiro, vice president for protected communications at Lockheed Martin Space, said, "This fifth satellite adds an additional layer of flexibility for critical strategic and tactical protected communications serving the warfighter. This added resilience to the existing constellation will help ensure warfighters can connect globally to communicate and transmit data at all times."

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AEHF-5, with its advanced Extended Data Rate (XDR) waveform technology, adds to the constellation's high-bandwidth network. One AEHF satellite provides greater total capacity than the entire legacy five-satellite Milstar communications constellation.

"In the weeks ahead, AEHF-5 will move towards its operational orbit, deploy all of its solar arrays and antennas, and turn on its powerful communications payload for a rigorous testing phase prior to hand over to the Air Force," Cacheiro said. 

Lockheed Martin designed, processed and manufactured all five on-orbit AEHF satellites at its advanced satellite manufacturing facility in Sunnyvale, California. The next AEHF satellite, AEHF-6, is currently in full production in Silicon Valley and is expected to launch in 2020.

Cacheiro added, "Individual data rates increase five-fold compared to Milstar, permitting transmission of tactical military communications, such as real-time video, battlefield maps and targeting data. AEHF affords national leaders anti-jam, always-on connectivity during all levels of conflict and enables both strategic and tactical users to communicate globally across a high-speed network that delivers protected communications in any environment."

The AEHF team includes the US Air Force Military Satellite Communications Systems Directorate at the Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California. Lockheed Martin Space, Sunnyvale, California, is the AEHF prime contractor, space and ground segments provider as well as system integrator, with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Redondo Beach, California, as the payload provider.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 105,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services.

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