Last of the AEHF satellites lifts off from Florida

Last of the AEHF satellites lifts off from Florida

An Atlas 5 rocket successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida March 26 carrying a satellite that is expected to provide secure, jam-resistant communications for the military for the next 15 years.

The satellite, referred to as Advanced Extremely High Frequency, or AEHF-6, was the last in a family of six satellites. The AEHF system provides secure, jam-resistant communications for high-priority military missions. Though used by tactical military forces, one of the constellation’s primary missions is to allow the president and other elements of the national command authority to communicate and direct strategic operations in the event of a nuclear war.

The first satellite in the constellation, AEHF-1, launched almost a decade ago, in August 2010, but took more than a year to reach its operating orbit due to a propulsion glitch. For much of the time since then, military and industry officials have debated the role of highly protected satellite communications in future space architectures.

AEHF replaced the MILSTAR constellation in providing protected, anti-jamming satellite communications to high-priority United States military assets and its international partners in Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands and Australia.

Industry and military officials tout that one AEHF satellite has three time more capacity than the entirety of the previous MILSTAR constellation and that the entire AEHF constellation will provide 10 times more throughput and increase coverage.

In April 2019, the Government Accountability Office reported the total cost of the satellite program was about $15.5 billion for the six satellites. That’s more than double original projections.

Lockheed Martin was the prime contractor on the program. Northrop Grumman provided the payloads.

“While this is the final AEHF satellite launch, it really brings the constellation to full strength, capability and truly marks the beginning of the AEHF system’s full lifecycle,” said Mike Cacheiro, vice president for protected communications at Lockheed Martin

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