Almost There

The first Advanced High Frequency Satellite is nearing completion of its journey to its intended operational orbit, said Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, Space and Missile Systems Center commander. “We are getting very, very close at this point,” she told reporters Monday afternoon at AFA’s Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md. “The satellite is doing very well. It is healthy. It is in its last couple weeks of getting there.” Shortly after its launch in August 2010, a propulsion anomaly with AEHF-1 derailed the original plan to lift the satellite into its operational orbit. USAF and Lockheed Martin space officials devised an alternate plan using different thrusters on the satellite to position it in its proper perch, albeit incurring about a one-year delay. Pawlikowski credited the USAF-industry team for doing “a remarkable job” in coming up with the backup orbit-raising strategy. While the quality-control issue that led to the on-orbit problem “should have been caught,” she said she looks at what happened “as a one-off experience, not as a trend.”