Lockheed Martin has completed integration of the propulsion core and payload module for the US Air Force’s (USAF) fourth advanced extremely high-frequency (AEHF-4) satellite.

The integration was completed five months ahead of schedule. Its integration accelerated the satellite into its testing flow.

The payload module has been developed by Northrop Grumman and contains the processing, routing and control hardware and software that perform the satellite’s communications function.

AEHF is a follow-on to USAF’s Milstar system. It is the next-generation of protected military satellite communications system designed to provide enhanced global, survivable, protected communications for the US troops and its allied militaries, including the UK, Canada and the Netherlands.

The satellite is equipped with phased array antennas that can block out potential jamming sources. It provides critical survivable, protected and endurable communications links to national leaders, including presidential conferencing during all levels of conflict.

Lockheed is under contract to manufacture six AEHF satellites and the mission control segment for USAF. It has delivered three spacecraft to date, which are currently delivering enhanced performance on orbit.

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"AEHF is a follow-on to USAF’s Milstar system."

The AEHF programme is dubbed as a model for costs savings in government contracting. It saw the company work with the air force to limit risk through a fixed price structure and incorporate economies of scale.

Overall costs for the AEHF-5 and AEHF-6 production contract were reduced by more than 35% from initial government estimates.

The USAF’s AEHF Program Office was awarded the Defense Department’s David Packard Award for acquisition excellence in late 2014.

Lockheed Martin Protected Communications Systems vice-president and AEHF programme manager Mark Calassa said: "While we have made significant strides in affordability through block buys and commonality, the ingenuity of AEHF extends beyond the financials.

"The programme continues to bring to bear unequalled technology that keeps our combatant commanders and warfighters connected."

The AEHF-4 is scheduled for launch in 2017, while the fifth and sixth spacecraft are in production at the company’s facility in Sunnyvale, California, US.

Image: The payload module and propulsion core for the fourth advanced extremely high frequency satellite are mated togerther. Photo: courtesy of © 2015 Lockheed Martin Corporation.