The U.S. Air Force’s first Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) secure communications satellite is on track to enter operations in March, the service announced Dec. 15.
Dave Madden, director of the Milsatcom Systems Directorate at the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles, told reporters that on-orbit testing is proceeding well, with the satellite so far having completed 39 of 76 tests and 225 of 374 objectives. Many of the remaining tests involve demonstrating connectivity between AEHF and the legacy Milstar secure communications satellites and AEHF’s interaction with ground terminals.
“We always run into a few things that surprise us a little bit,” Madden said. “But this testing has gone extremely clean, and anything that comes across is going exceptionally well.”
Madden also said a recent $312 million modification to Lockheed Martin’s AEHF contract is unrelated to a propulsion glitch that delayed the arrival of the first satellite at its operating location for more than a year.
In a Dec. 13 written response to questions, the Air Force said the contract modification is a standard, planned extension of Lockheed Martin’s support role for delivered AEHF satellites and ground systems. “The on-orbit anomaly resolution and investigation is only provided if needed and is only one of the tasks accomplished under this contract,” the Air Force said.