Northrop delivers first efficiency converter unit for USAF's fourth AEHF satellite


AEHF payload

Northrop Grumman has completed delivery of the first of 20 uplink phased array high-efficiency converter (UHEC) units designed for installation onboard the US Air Force's (USAF) fourth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-4) satellite payload.

The delivery paved the way for payload integration and testing two months earlier than the original baseline planning requirements.

Once delivered, all UHEC units will be integrated into AEHF-4's payload module, which was delivered ahead of schedule by AEHF prime contractor, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, in November 2012.

Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems communications programmes vice president Stuart Linsky said lessons learnt from the first three AEHF payloads they built allowed the company to deliver the UHEC ahead of schedule.

"We plan to follow this first early unit delivery with more early deliveries to achieve the government's affordability expectations," Linsky added.

The fully integrated payload module will be transferred to Lockheed's facility in Sunnyvale, California, for final satellite integration and testing in late 2013.

Once installed with UHEC units, the fully integrated payload module will be transferred to Lockheed's facility in Sunnyvale, California, for final satellite integration and testing in late 2013.

Capable of receiving signals from ground terminals, uplink phased array antennas electronically direct radio frequency beams as opposed to moving reflectors, mechanically offering the flexibility to point on demand in fractions of a second, eventually enhancing warfighter access.

Representing the first 44GHz operational phased array for space applications, the highly directional antenna also lowers the possibility of hostile jamming and intercepts, ensuring secure, reliable communications between command and control units, wherever they operate.

The AEHF are the next generation of protected military communications satellites designed to deliver enhanced global, survivable, protected communications for US warfighters and its allied militaries, including the UK, Canada and Netherlands.

Led by Lockheed, the AEHF team includes the US Air Force Military Satellite Communications Systems Directorate and Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.


Image: A technician works on the fourth protected communications payload of the USAF's AEHF satellite system at Northrop's facility in Redondo Beach, California, US. Photo: Courtesy of Northrop Grumman.

Defence Technology