USAF’s AEHF-5 communication satellite responds to commands

Hemanth Kumar and Harry Lye 9 August 2019 (Last Updated August 9th, 2019 12:12)

The US Air Force's the fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-5) protected communication satellite is responding to commands given by 4th Space Operations Squadron.

USAF’s AEHF-5 communication satellite responds to commands
AEHF satellite launch. Credit: Lockheed Martin.

The US Air Force’s the fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-5) protected communication satellite is responding to commands given by 4th Space Operations Squadron.

Designed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin, the AEHF-5 satellite was successfully launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on 08 August.

Lockheed Martin noted that the squadron started ‘flying’ AEHF-5 shortly after it separated from the rocket.

The constellation of five AEHF satellites provides global coverage for survivable, highly secure and protected communications for strategic command and tactical warfighters.

The jam-resistant AEHF system will be used by US Forces alongside international allies including the UK and Canada.

Lockheed Martin Space Protected Communications vice-president Mike Cacheiro said: “This fifth satellite adds an additional layer of flexibility for critical strategic and tactical protected communications serving the war fighter.

“This added resilience to the existing constellation will help ensure war fighters can connect globally to communicate and transmit data at all times. In the weeks ahead, AEHF-5 will move towards its operational orbit, deploy all of its solar arrays and antennas, and turn on its powerful communications payload for a rigorous testing phase prior to hand over to the Air Force.”

AEHF-5 is equipped with advanced Extended Data Rate (XDR) waveform technology to bolster the constellations network.

According to the company, each AEHF satellite is capable of providing a greater total capacity than the entire legacy five-satellite Milstar communications constellation.

Cacheiro further stated: “Individual data rates increase five-fold compared to Milstar, permitting transmission of tactical military communications, such as real-time video, battlefield maps and targeting data.”

The system enables anti-jam, always-on connectivity to national leaders and decision-makers during all levels of conflict, he added.

Lockheed Martin developed the satellites at its Sunnyvale facility in California. The company is currently producing the sixth satellite in the series.

Northrop Grumman Aerospace is the payload provider for the AEHF programme.

The protected satellites use wide bandwidth (EHF) to negate the effects of signal jammers, the system also includes built-in protections to stop communications being intercepted.

The first satellite in the constellation launched in 2010, four years after originally planned. The delay was caused by the National Security Agency (NSA) failing to deliver cryptographic components on schedule. The delays added around $800m to the total cost of the programme.