October 18, 2018 – The fourth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) protected communication satellite, built by Lockheed Martin, was successfully launched on October 16 at 10:15 p.m. MDT. The mission for the U.S. Air Force lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket. Lockheed Martin confirmed signal acquisition at 1:47 a.m. MDT.
“ULA’s unparalleled record of successfully launching and placing payloads in orbit signifies our profound commitment to national defense,” said Tory Bruno, ULA president and CEO. “We remain the only launch provider capable of placing our customers’ payloads into any national security space orbit, anytime, which we’ve proudly exhibited through 50 launches for the U.S. Air Force.”
The AEHF system, developed by Lockheed Martin, provides vastly improved global, survivable, protected communications capabilities for strategic command and tactical warfighters operating on ground, sea and air platforms. With four satellites in orbit, the AEHF constellation completes a geostationary ring and will be able to deliver global coverage.
Lockheed Martin is on contract with the Air Force to deliver the fifth and sixth satellites and upgraded the Mission Planning ground system. Lockheed Martin contributed payload system engineering, mission control ground software, solar arrays and the LM A2100 spacecraft bus, which is a dependable and low-risk platform for commercial, civil and military satellites. All AEHF satellites are assembled at the company’s Sunnyvale, Calif. facility.
The AEHF team includes the U.S. Air Force Military Satellite Communications Systems Directorate at the Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Sunnyvale, California, is the AEHF prime contractor, space and ground segments provider as well as system integrator, with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Redondo Beach, California, as the payload provider.
“It’s good to return with our mission partners to see the culmination of expertise, skill and partnership that we have worked diligently toward to make this AEHF launch a success,” said Mike Cacheiro, vice president of Protected Communication Systems at Lockheed Martin. “This is a substantial milestone for AEHF, and as we look ahead, we continue to improve and upgrade this mission to deliver these vital communications capabilities to the Air Force.”
The satellite will now move into a testing phase prior to hand over to the Air Force.
The launch of AEHF-4 marks ULA’s 50th launch for the U.S. Air Force; ULA’s first Air Force mission was Space Test Program-1 (STP-1), launched March 8, 2007.
This mission launched aboard an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) 551 configuration vehicle, which includes a 5-meter large Payload Fairing (PLF) and stands at 197 ft. tall. Producing more than two and a half million pounds of thrust at liftoff, the Atlas V 551 configuration rocket is the most powerful in the Atlas V fleet. The 551 rocket has launched groundbreaking missions for our nation—from the critically important Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) constellation to historic science missions including New Horizons, the first mission to Pluto, and the Juno mission to Jupiter.
“Over the past 12 years, the men and women of ULA have reliably delivered dozens of Air Force payloads into orbit from GPS to WGS, and SBIRS to AEHF,” said Gen. Jay Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command. “ULA’s unprecedented 100 percent launch success has directly contributed to our national security. Congratulations to the entire launch team on a successful 50th launch for the U.S. Air Force.”