WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin Space Systems have delivered the third in a series of highly secure military communications satellites to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., in preparation for a September launch.

The Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF)-3 satellite arrived from Sunnyvale, Calif., July 10, the Air Force said in a press release. The satellite will undergo preparation before being launched to geostationary transfer orbit atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, the Air Force said.

The first satellite in the constellation, AEHF-1, was launched in August 2010 but took more than a year to reach its operational orbit due to a propulsion glitch. AEHF-2 joined AEHF-1 in orbit in May 2012. 

Lockheed Martin is expected to build a total of six satellites under a contract worth an estimated $9 billion or more, including associated ground systems.

The satellites are designed to provide assured and highly secure communications links under all conditions, including a nuclear war environment. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems of Redondo Beach, Calif., provides the satellites’ communications payloads.

Mike Gruss is a senior staff writer for SpaceNews. He joined the publication in January 2013 to cover military space. Previously, he worked as a reporter and columnist for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. and The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Ind. He...