U.S. Air Force welcomes fifth Lockheed Martin-built AEHF satellite to Cape Canaveral for June launch

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AEHF-5 is hoisted by crane into its satellite ship container at Lockheed Martin’s satellite manufacturing facility in Sunnyvale, Calif. After the satellite is securely packed into the container, it boards a US Air Force cargo plane where it will travel from California to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. (Lockheed Martin photograph)

The U.S. Air Force is gearing up to launch the fifth global, anti-jam, protected communications satellite after its arrival in Florida.

Lockheed Martin shipped the Air Force’s fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-5) satellite to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station ahead of its expected June launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. AEHF-5’s launch comes just eight months after AEHF-4 blasted off from the Cape on Oct. 17, 2018.

Once launched, AEHF-5 will join the AEHF constellation, which provides protected, survivable communications for the nation’s nuclear command, control and communication mission.

Earlier this month, the Air Force and Lockheed Martin marked the successful completion of AEHF-4’s spacecraft on-orbit testing. This event is the last step before the satellite joins the existing AEHF constellation, adding increased resiliency to an on-orbit network that continues to provide highly-secure, protected and survivable communications for the U.S., Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

“We are thrilled to return to the Cape to launch AEHF-5 less than a year after launching AEHF-4, showing an accelerated pace to support the Air Force Space and Missiles Systems Center,” said Mike Cacheiro, vice president of Protected Communications at Lockheed Martin Space. “AEHF-4 arrived to its on-orbit operational position a month early, where it demonstrated Extended Data Rate (XDR) connectivity. This is an exciting time where we are witnessing the deployment of critical capabilities of the current four AEHF satellites in geosynchronous orbit, which provide ten times greater capacity than the original Milstar constellation. The AEHF system is essentially a high capacity data network in the sky, and this is a complete paradigm shift for the future of protected communications.”

The new AEHF constellation with the advanced technology of XDR will change how users interact with the new high-bandwidth network. Data speeds increase fivefold, and transmissions that used to take hours can take minutes. This enables both strategic and tactical users to communicate globally across a high-speed network that delviers protected communications in any environment.

Lockheed Martin designs, processes and manufactures the AEHF satellites at its production facility in Silicon Valley. AEHF-6 is currently in full production at the company’s Sunnyvale, Calif., advanced satellite manufacturing facility.