WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force announced June 8 it delivered the first of two military communications payloads that will launch in 2023 on Space Norway’s Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission known as ASBM.

The $1.3 billion Enhanced Polar Systems-Recapitalization (EPS-R) payloads – developed by Northrop Grumman — will fly to highly elliptical orbits on two ASBM satellites scheduled to lift off next year on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. 

The mission also includes communications payloads for the Norwegian Ministry of Defense and for British satellite operator Inmarsat. The EPS-R are Extremely High Frequency Extended Data Rate payloads that will provide secure communications services for U.S. forces operating in the north polar region. 

The two EPS-R payloads will augment two existing Enhanced Polar Systems satellites also made by Northrop Grumman. The company also is updating the ground segment.

The project has been hailed by U.S. defense officials as an example of international cooperation on space programs. The Space Force said the U.S.-Norway agreement to launch EPS-R marks the first national security space payload to be hosted on an allied 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...