Lockheed Martin began early assembly of the fourth Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite thanks to early delivery of its payload and engine core, the company announced. “We are putting plans in place to finish six months ahead of our baseline schedule” saving money in the process, said Mark Calassa, company vice president of protected communication systems. The launch of AEHF-4, tentatively slated for 2017, will enable the new military communications satellite constellation to reach full operational capability, according to the company. Lockheed Martin is under contract to deliver six AEHF satellites, which will replace the Defense Department’s legacy MILSTAR system with higher capacity, jam-resistant communications. The AEHF payload is built by Northrop Grumman, but Lockheed Martin as the lead contractor is in charge of integration. (Northrop Grumman 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.