The U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin have completed on-orbit testing of the second Advanced Extremely High Frequency military communications satellite.
Following successful spacecraft testing, Satellite Control Authority was turned over to the 14th Air Force at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., for operations.
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. The system also serves international partners including Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
A single AEHF satellite provides greater total capacity than the entire legacy five-satellite Milstar constellation. Individual user data rates will be increased five-fold, permitting transmission of tactical military communications, such as real-time video, battlefield maps and targeting data. In addition to its tactical mission, AEHF also provides the critical survivable, protected, and endurable communications links to national leaders including presidential conferencing in all levels of conflict.
“Completion of on-orbit testing and handover of AEHF-2 is a critical milestone for the Air Force and our nation,” said Dave Madden, Director of the Military Satellite Communications Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center. “The AEHF satellites on orbit and those planned for launch will play a pivotal role in our national security for years to come.”
AEHF-2 launched May 4, 2012, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. After successful spacecraft deployments and payload activation, the satellite has now completed all on-orbit testing. The on-orbit testing demonstrated both interoperability with the existing Milstar constellation and established communications networks between combinations of EHF communications terminals with legacy Milstar data rates, as well as at the new AEHF extended data rates.
“The U.S. Air Force, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman AEHF team performed a thorough and efficient on orbit test campaign for this critical satellite, and AEHF-2 is performing exceptionally well,” said Mark Calassa, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and AEHF program manager. “With the first two AEHF satellites now on orbit, the Department of Defense is well on its way to augmenting, improving and expanding its critical military satellite communications architecture to meet increasing demand from users worldwide.”
Lockheed Martin is currently under contract to deliver four AEHF satellites and the Mission Control Segment. The program has begun advanced procurement of long-lead components for the fifth and sixth AEHF satellites.
AEHF-1 and AEHF-2 have both launched and are on orbit. Lockheed Martin has completed work on AEHF-3 and will prepare the satellite for a September 2013 launch date.
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.