The US Air Force’s (USAF) 45th Space Wing has successfully launched the third Lockheed Martin-built advanced extremely high-frequency (AEHF-3) communication satellite from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida.
The satellite was launched onboard a United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V rocket, which flew in the 531 vehicle configuration with a 5m fairing, three solid rocket boosters and a single-engine Centaur upper stage.
Lockheed Martin Protected Communication Systems vice-president Mark Calass said the third AEHF satellite’s successful launch represents a significant accomplishment for the nation’s protected communications mission.
"AEHF is functioning well in tests, and allies are connecting to the system for the first time," Calass said. "It shows that our product is meeting mission needs, and we have room to expand capacity for both tactical and strategic users in the future."
Commenting on the launch, 45th Space Wing commander brigadier general Nina Armagno said: "This successful launch helps to ensure that vital communications will continue to bolster our nation’s military capabilities and showcases once again why the 45th Space Wing is the world’s premiere gateway to space."
A follow-on to USAF’s Milstar system, 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 can operate at 44GHz uplink and 20GHz downlink, and also offer critical survivable, protected and endurable communications links to national leaders, including presidential conferencing during all levels of conflict.
Lockheed is currently under contract to deliver six AEHF satellites along with a mission control segment to USAF.
The initial two AEHF satellites were launched from CCAFS in August 2010 and May 2012 respectively, whereas the AEHF-4, 5 and 6 are advancing on schedule.
Image: The Atlas V rocket carrying USAF’s AEHF-3 satellite lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force in Florida, US. Photo: courtesy of United Launch Alliance.