Lockheed Martin has successfully integrated the propulsion core and payload module for the fourth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite nearly five months ahead of schedule.
Reaching this critical milestone early accelerates AEHF-4 into its test flow and evidences the continued programmatic success of the nation’s most protected military communications satellite system.
Lockheed Martin’s AEHF program has been cited as a model for costs savings in government contracting by working with the Air Force to limit risk through a fixed price structure and incorporate economies of scale. Overall costs for the contract of AEHF vehicles five and six were reduced by more than 35 percent from initial government estimates. At the end of 2014, the Air Force’s AEHF program office was awarded the Defense Department’s David Packard Award for acquisition excellence.
“Winning the Packard Award showcases the Space and Missile Systems Center’s leadership on AEHF, and we are proud to be part of an Air Force program that is driving innovation through cost savings,” said Mark C. Calassa, vice president of Protected Communications Systems and AEHF program manager for Lockheed Martin. “While we have made significant strides in affordability through block buys and commonality, the ingenuity of AEHF extends beyond the financials. The program continues to bring to bear unequaled technology that keeps our combatant commanders and warfighters connected.”
The first satellite AEHF put on orbit was the first spacecraft to harness the efficient burn strategy of electronic propulsion from the new Hall Current Thruster, which raised AEHF-1 to its operational orbit. And the total capacity of a single AEHF satellite outperforms the entire five-satellite constellation of the legacy protected communications program, Milstar.
Performing both strategic and tactical missions, AEHF is the military’s most protected communications satellite system assuring the communications link for national leaders, such as the President and Joint Chiefs of Staff. The system also connects international troops for the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Canada.
Lockheed Martin is under contract to deliver six AEHF satellites and the Mission Control Segment to the Air Force. Three satellites have launched and are delivering superb performance on orbit, while the fourth has entered its test flow following an early, successful integration. Space vehicles five and six are in production at the company’s Sunnyvale facility.