Successful Launch of First AEHF Satellite

By jason_rhian
August 17, 2010
Filed under
Successful Launch of First AEHF Satellite
Successful Launch of First AEHF Satellite

CAPE CANVERAL – The U.S. Air Force launched the first of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites (AEHF-1) aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket, Saturday, Aug. 14 at 7:07 a.m. EDT. The rocket lifted off on the first attempt at the opening of its launch window. The Atlas V rose majestically from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC 41) its plume casting a long shadow as it moved across Florida’s morning sky.

The AEHF system is designed to be a replacement for the aging Milstar constellation of satellites, designed to provide high-speed communications for military leaders. This new, jam-proof system will also be the link between the president and the U.S. forces if there is a nuclear attack.

Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor to both build the AEHF fleet of satellites and to construct the mission control center where the satellites will be operated from.

“We’re very excited about today’s launch,” said Matt Everett a Lockheed Martin spokesman just before Saturday’s liftoff. “The advanced AEHF system is going to provide 10 times the capacity of the legacy Milstar system and five times the data rate.”

When the system is finished it will consist of three ‘working’ satellites and a ‘spare’ AEHF satellite. These satellites are interconnected and capable of communicating with one another. They will provide the military with crucial information such as maps, video and targeting data. When operational, this fleet of satellites will be managed by the 4th Space Operations Squadron stationed out of Schriever Air Force Base located in Colorado.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V thunders off the launch pad at Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 41. This launch delivered the first AEHF military satellite to orbit. Photo Credit: Alan Walters

A number of U.S. allies are involved with the AEHF program and will use the satellites once the system is brought online. These international partners include Canada, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

The Atlas family of rockets can be traced all the way back to the beginning of the space age. There have been over 300 Atlas launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and 285 from Vandenberg Air Force Base located in California. The Atlas V is constructed in Denver, Colorado by ULA, a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. However, construction of these rockets will move from Colorado to Decatur, Alabama in the near future. The first Atlas V was launched on Aug. 21, 2002.