AEHF payload

Lockheed Martin Space Systems took delivery of the fourth advanced extremely high frequency (AEHF) satellite payload module from Northrop Grumman, two months ahead of schedule.

Northrop is now planning to ship complex phased array and nulling antennas, along with the advanced crosslinks, to complete payload delivery in late 2014.

The payload module contains the processing, routing and control hardware and software that perform the satellite’s communications function.

Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems Communication Programs vice-president Stuart Linsky said the company started work on the fourth payload earlier than originally planned because Lockheed shipped the bus structure early.

"With the hybrid approach for integrating the payload at our facilities and finishing at Lockheed Martin’s, the government benefits from an overall reduction in programme cost and schedule," Linsky said.

Jointly developed with Lockheed and the US Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, the hybrid integration approach enables Lockheed to start satellite bus unit integration within the payload module while a Northrop team simultaneously completes the remaining payload integration.

AEHF satellite payloads contain a full range of features that protect against a range of threats, such as anti-jamming, low probability of detection and intercept, rapid recovery during a nuclear event, the ability to operate through scintillation, greatly reduced risk from physical attack to ground systems, and significant protection from cyber attack.

"The payload module contains the processing, routing and control hardware and software that perform the satellite’s communications function."

Northrop had also delivered payload modules for the first, second and third AEHF satellites ahead of schedule in 2007, 2008 and 2009 respectively.

The AEHF Flight 4 is expected to be launched in 2017.

A follow-on to USAF’s Milstar system, the AEHF 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 Netherlands.

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

Lockheed is under contract to deliver six AEHF satellites and the mission control segment to USAF.

Image: Integration of the payload module for the fourth AEHF satellite underway at Northrop’s facilities in Redondo Beach, California, US. Photo: courtesy of Alex Evers.

Defence Technology