Northrop Grumman has taken delivery of more than 800 application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) for production of payloads for the US Air Force’s (USAF) fifth and sixth advanced extremely high frequency (AEHF) protected communication satellites. Delivered by Honeywell Aerospace and BAE Systems, the ASICs boost production of electronic units that operate customised functions unique to AEHF payloads, including onboard signal processing and an advanced suite of 14 antennas that enable countering of hostile electronic, cyber and physical threats. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems communication programs vice-president Stuart Linsky said the customised semiconductors decrease the AEHF payloads size and weight to half of the previous-generation MILSTAR satellite payloads, while providing ten times the capacity. "Advanced EHF payloads are an innovative blend of onboard digital signal processing hardware, firmware and software that deliver flexible connectivity on demand," Linsky said. "Each payload has constellation interconnects provided through satellite crosslinks that form a truly global, protected communications network without the need for vulnerable overseas ground gateways or stations." in addition to ASICs, each AEHF payload also includes one million lines of software code, 25 computers, 18,000 monolithic microwave integrated circuits of 70 designs, and 13,000 integrated microwave assemblies and hybrids of 50 designs, to help address 3,000 specific requirements, according to the company.
Having supplied three payloads to date to the AEHF prime contractor, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Northrop is currently manufacturing the fourth payload at its facility in Redondo Beach, California, US. 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.
Image: The payloads of the USAF’s advanced extremely high frequency protected communication satellites. Photo: courtesy of Lockheed Martin.