WASHINGTON — Northrop Grumman received a $298 million contract to develop a jam-resistant military satellite to supplement and eventually replace the existing Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites made by Lockheed Martin.

The Space and Missile Systems Center announced the contract award Sept. 16 for the Evolved Strategic Satellite Communications program, known as Evolved Strategic Satcom. The satellite has to be completed by May 2025.

The ESS program continues the strategic satcom mission of the AEHF constellation. This includes providing survivable, global, secure, protected, and jam-resistant communications for high-priority military operations and national command authorities.

ESS satellites will interoperate with, and eventually replace AEHF’s mid-latitude system capability, extending its  communications capability to the North Polar region.

The Space and Missile Systems Center in March launched the sixth and final AEHF satellite. SMC said it would be studying alternatives for a future satcom architecture.

According to Space Force budget documents, the plan is to award up to three competitive rapid-prototyping contracts for ESS.

Northrop Grumman is Lockheed Martin’s primary subcontractor for AEHF. The company provides the communication payloads for all AEHF satellites. These payloads contain the processing, routing and control hardware and software that perform the satellite’s core communications mission.

Northrop Grumman also supplies the bus structures, heat pipes and solar array hinges for the AEHF satellites, as well as propellant and pressurant tanks for the spacecraft.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...