AEHF Satellite Progresses Through Orbital Checkout

After executing an extraordinary effort that saved the Air Force’s first Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications satellite from loss, a service-led space team has completed more than 200 on-orbit tests of the sophisticated spacecraft as part of its checkout process, said Dave Madden, director of the Military Satellite Communications Systems office at Los Angeles AFB, Calif. Briefing reporters Thursday via teleconference, Madden said officials with the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles anticipate that they will transfer the satellite’s command authority in March to the 50th Space Wing at Schriever AFB, Colo. The wing will operate the satellite over its planned 14-year service life. Madden said the on-orbit testing has involved verifying that the satellite’s payload functions with Air Force, Army, and Navy communications terminals, including backward compatibility with legacy Milstar terminals. Remaining test objectives include ensuring that the satellite can serve in missions up to and including providing the President with secure communications for command and control of the nation’s nuclear forces, said Madden. (For the full account of the efforts that saved the AEHF satellite, read Rescue in Space.)