AEHF-4 packed and ready for launch atop powerful Atlas V
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., — Colorado-based Lockheed Martin has the fourth of the six planned Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-4) satellites safely cocooned and ready for flight.
With the flight of AEHF-4 a week away, the spacecraft has been encapsulated into the payload fairing that is designed to shield it through Florida’s turbulent atmosphere. This critical milestone took place back on September 26.
The launch of the Atlas V 551 rocket (AV-073) is currently slated to leave the launch pad located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) in Florida on October 17. The Atlas V rocket tasked with ferrying the satellite to its is produced by another Colorado-based firm – United Launch Alliance.
The AEHF-4 satellite was constructed by Lockheed Martin at the company’s facility’s located in Sunnyvale, California. The spacecraft is based off the A2100M bus and was delivered to the Cape in preparation for its flight on July 27, 2018.
“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 via a company-issued release. “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.”
This new AEHF fleet should far surpass the capabilities of the spacecraft that it is designed to replace – Milstar. Lockheed Martin has stated that each AEHF satellite has a “greater capacity than the entire legacy five-satellite Milstar constellation.”
Capacity is not the only aspect of the AEHF on orbit segment of the system that the company has touted. The AEHF satellites are described as being “jam-proof” and are considered to be safe from interference. Moreover, these satellites are scheduled to provide their services across the world.
The AEHF system is being fielded so as to provide, as Lockheed Martin describes: improved global, survivable, highly secure, protected communications for strategic command and tactical warfighters operating on ground, sea and air platforms.
AEHF should produce several communications services that include video and maps of the combat zone. This should give commanders the ability to get a more accurate fix on targets. According to Lockheed Martin, the AEHF satellites should provide an increase of data rates five times the current rate.
The AEHF fleet is produced and operated by a group of organizations that include Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman ans well as U.S. the Air Force Space Command. AEHF won’t just be used by the U.S. military, with the British, Canadian and Royal Netherlands Armed Forces all signed on to utilize system.
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.