Advanced communications satellite passes key milestone

AEHF spacecraft ready for final integrated system testing

Lockheed Martin Corp. has completed final thermal vacuum testing of a next-generation communications satellite for the Defense Department and is ready to embark on final integrated system testing.

The company conducted thermal vacuum testing of the first Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite from July 7 to 13, officials said July 20.

The test is one of several key environmental evaluations intended to validate the satellite’s overall design, quality of workmanship, and survivability during launch and on-orbit operations, the officials said. The test exposes the satellite to extreme heat and cold similar to what it will experience during its 14-year design life.

Now the contracting team will shift to the final integrated spacecraft and system testing activities required to prepare the vehicle for flight.

DOD established the AEHF program to provide a new generation of global, highly secure, survivable communications satellites to serve the U.S. commander-in-chief, military leaders and armed forces. The planned AEHF constellation will deliver a significantly higher data rate for troops than do the Milstar satellites currently in orbit.

In addition, the planned constellation will support Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Lockheed Martin is scheduled to deliver the first satellite to the Air Force in 2010 for launch aboard an Atlas V vehicle. The second and third satellites are also advancing through final integration and test activities and are on track for launch in 2011 and 2012, respectively. The program might add a fourth satellite.

Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for the AEHF program, and Northrop Grumman Corp. is the payload supplier. The Air Force’s Military Satellite Communications Systems Wing at the Los Angeles Air Force Base oversees the program.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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