Final AEHF satellite set for launch despite Covid-19 pandemic

26 March 2020 (Last Updated March 26th, 2020 11:21)

The first national security space mission for the US Space Force is set to lift off from Florida despite the threat of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Final AEHF satellite set for launch despite Covid-19 pandemic
Booster Offload: Atlas V AEHF-6. Credit: Flickr.

The first national security space mission for the US Space Force is set to lift off from Florida despite the threat of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

The sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-6) protected communications satellite has been built by Lockheed Martin.

The launch is on track from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Complex 41 on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket with boosters attached.

It is the 138th launch for ULA, which is harnessing the potential of space for humanity. The launch would be the first under restrictions in Florida against public gatherings because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The addition of the sixth AEHF satellite will allow US troops to see more reliable transmission of data anywhere and anytime, offering survivable, protected communications capabilities for national leaders and tactical troops operating across ground, sea and air platforms.

The satellite offers jam-resistant communications, serving international allies, including Canada, the Netherlands, the UK and Australia.

Lockheed Martin vice-president for protected communications Mike Cacheiro said: “While this is the final AEHF satellite launch, it really brings the constellation to full strength, capability and truly marks the beginning of the AEHF system’s full lifecycle.”

The rocket will be launched in an Atlas V 551 configuration, which was first introduced in January 2006. The vehicle includes a 5m large Payload Fairing and stands at 197ft tall.

The AEHF-6 has been developed and manufactured at Lockheed Martin’s satellite production facility situated in Sunnyvale, California. The company is the prime contractor for the AEHF system.

The AEHF team is led by the Production Corps, Medium Earth Orbit Division, at the Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, at Los Angeles Air Force Base.