The Air Force’s first Advanced Extremely High Frequency military communications satellite, AEHF-1, arrived at its intended operational position in geosynchronous orbit, completing a 14-month journey, announced USAF space officials Tuesday. The satellite reached its orbital perch on Monday, they said. “I am extremely proud of the entire AEHF team for its ability to apply engineering excellence, superior teamwork, and remarkable creativity to accomplish this very important milestone,” said Dave Madden, director of the Military Satellite Communications office at Los Angeles AFB, Calif. AEHF-1’s trek was made more difficult when the thrusters meant to propel the satellite to its destined spot malfunctioned shortly after the satellite reached space in August 2010. That forced the Air Force and its industry partners to devise an alternate orbit-raising plan using different thrusters on the spacecraft. They were able to execute this plan, while retaining the satellite’s 14 years of required mission life, according to the USAF officials. Next up for AEHF-1 are some four months of on-orbit checkout and testing before Air Force satellite operators assume command authority for the spacecraft sometime in early 2012. (Los Angeles release)
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.