The payload’s phased array, nulling, and advanced V-band crosslink antennas were integrated and tested with the payload module. This comprised processing, routing and control hardware and software that performs the satellite’s communications function, which was supplied to Lockheed in April this year.
A new hybrid integration approach is used by the AEHF industry team that enables Lockheed to start satellite bus unit integration within the payload module, while a Northrop team simultaneously completes the remaining payload integration.
The approach was jointly developed with Lockheed and the US Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center.
Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems Communication Programs vice-president Stuart Linsky said: "This hybrid approach is providing an overall reduction in programme cost and schedule.
"We fully expect to see these savings on flights five and six as well."
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Lockheed Martin Space Systems Protected Communication Systems vice-president Mark Calassa commented: "We expected the hybrid approach to give our team more flexibility and efficiency, and it has exceeded our expectations."
AEHF satellite payloads contain features that protect against a range of threats, such as anti-jamming, low probability of detection and intercept, rapid recovery during a nuclear event, and the ability to operate through scintillation.
The features also provide a greatly reduced risk from physical attack to ground systems, and significant protection from cyber attacks.
Northrop delivered payload modules for the first, second and third AEHF satellites in 2007, 2008 and 2009 respectively.
The AEHF is the next-generation of protected military satellite communications system designed to provide enhanced global, survivable, protected communications for US soldiers and its allied militaries, including the UK, Canada, and the Netherlands.
Lockheed is under contract to deliver six AEHF satellites and the mission control segment to USAF, which launched the first three satellites in August 2010, May 2012, and September 2013.
The fourth AEHF satellite is expected to be launched in 2017.
Image: An artist’s impression of the advanced extremely high-frequency satellite in orbit. Photo: courtesy of the US Air Force.