Air Force Successfully Launches Fifth AEHF Satellite

The Air Force’s fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency military communications satellite launches from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., on Aug. 8, 2019. Courtesy photo.

The Air Force’s fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency military communications satellite successfully blasted off from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., early Aug. 8.

A nearly 200-foot United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carried AEHF-5 into space after more than a month’s delay. AEHF, built by Lockheed Martin, replaces the aging Milstar constellation to offer secure, jam-resistant military communications for the US, along with Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.

“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,” Mike Cacheiro, vice president for protected communications at Lockheed Martin Space, said in a release. “AEHF affords national leaders anti-jam, always-on connectivity during all levels of conflict and enables both strategic and tactical users to communicate globally across a high-speed network that delivers protected communications in any environment.”

The satellite will take about 100 days to get into its final position on orbit, followed by about a month of testing, according to the Air Force. AEHF-5 is now “talking with” and controlled by the 4th Space Operations Squadron at Schriever AFB, Colo., a Lockheed spokesman added.

“In addition to the five AJ-60A solid rocket motors that helped lift the Atlas V off the launch pad, Aerojet Rocketdyne provided the RL10C-1 rocket engine that provided 22,900 lbs. of thrust to propel the rocket’s Centaur upper stage,” Aerojet Rocketdyne said in a release. “The company also built the MR-106 reaction control system thrusters that provided upper stage pitch, yaw and roll control.”

Aerojet Rocketdyne also supplied thrusters for the satellite itself; other parts were provided by an AR subsidiary.

The sixth AEHF satellite is in production in California and is slated for launch in March 2020. Lockheed is receiving $2.2 billion for the fifth and sixth satellites under a block-buy contract.