United Launch Alliance’s workhorse Atlas V rocket launched an advanced communications satellite for the US Air Force Wednesday, following an early-morning liftoff from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Atlas launched at the opening of a two-hour window at 00:15 local time (04:15 UTC), successfully deloying the spacecraft after a three-and-a-half-hour mission.
Wednesday’s launch deployed the Advanced Extremely High Frequency 4 (AEHF-4) satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit. This is the fourth in a series of secure, high-throughput, communications satellites that are being deployed to modernize one of the primary military communications networks used by the United States and its allies.
AEHF satellites operate alongside the legacy Milstar series of communications satellites that they will eventually replace. Six Milstar satellites launched from 1994 to 2003, with one lost to a launch failure and the other five.
Upgrading this constellation allows the US Air Force to take advantage of new technologies to make its communications more secure and resilient, while increasing capacity. AEHF provides jamming-resistant, encrypted communications to ground, air and sea-based terminals.
AEHF-4’s patch on the Atlas V fairing – via Nathan Barker for NSF/L2
The satellites can cross-link communications, allowing data to be routed across the network without downlinking ...