Preventing Another AEHF Anomaly

The Air Force is still working out the financial and operational implications of the anomaly that has delayed the first Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications satellite, AEHF-1, from reaching its intended orbit, said Air Force Undersecretary Erin Conaton Tuesday during a budget briefing with reporters. The problem, it seems, was a blockage in one of the satellite’s fuel lines that may have been caused by “some sort of cleaning material that was used on the line, but wasn’t properly vacated” as the satellite went through production, said Richard McKinney, USAF’s deputy undersecretary for space programs, during the same briefing at the Pentagon. Officials have been able to replicate the problem during testing, and manufacturer Lockheed Martin is in the process of ensuring that AEHF-2 and AEHF-3 don’t encounter the same problem, said McKinney. The second satellite remains in storage and should be available for launch in the spring of 2012. AEHF-3 began final integration testing this month and is slated to launch as early as the fall of 2012.