WASHINGTON The U.S. Air Force has awarded Lockheed Martin Space Systems a $312 million contract for on-orbit anomaly analysis on the service’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) secure satellite communications system, the Defense Department announced Dec. 5.

The cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification covers “on-orbit anomaly resolution and investigation” as well as system testing, sustainment and other functions, the Pentagon said.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., is prime contractor on the AEHF program, whose first satellite, AEHF-1, took more than a year longer than expected to reach its operating orbit due to an on-board propulsion system failure that occurred shortly after its August 2010 launch. The glitch forced Lockheed Martin and the Air Force to devise a new orbit-raising plan using backup thrusters; the satellite reached geosynchronous orbit Oct. 3 and is now undergoing testing.

The Air Force penalized Lockheed Martin with a $15 million reduction in its contract award fee June 10 as a result of the delay. The Air Force said Lockheed was at fault for not properly flushing out one of the satellite’s fuel lines, which resulted in an engine ignition failure.

In a written response to questions provided by Lockheed Martin spokesman Stephen Tatum, the company said the contract modification was unrelated to the propulsion glitch and subsequent orbit-raising planning and execution. “The contract modification is to support overall integration of the AEHF program into the protected Milsatcom ring,” the statement said, adding that it extends for three years work that the company has performed since 2007. “It’s important to note that this contract modification is unrelated to the propulsion anomaly that delayed orbit-raising of the first AEHF satellite.”

Air Force spokeswoman Christina Greer said she could not immediately comment on the anomaly resolution contract, which runs through Dec. 31, 2014.

Lockheed Martin is under contract to build three AEHF satellites, and was authorized late last year to begin ordering parts for a fourth. In its budget request for 2012, the Air Force asked Congress to authorize the purchase of a fifth and sixth satellite expected to cost a combined $3.1 billion over the next several years.