The Lockheed Martin Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida. (Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin/Twitter)
The United States Space Force launched its first national security mission Thursday, sending an ultra-secure military communication satellite into orbit even as the coronavirus pandemic paralyses much of the country. The Lockheed Martin Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 4:18 pm (2018 GMT) aboard an Atlas V551 rocket. AEHF-6, as the satellite is called, is the sixth and final in the Lockheed Martin AEHF constellation. It will join the other five, which were launched between 2010 and 2019, on Friday around 0400 GMT after reaching geostationary orbit.
“This is a great milestone to share with the US Space Force’s Space and Missiles Systems Center,” said Mike Cacheiro, Vice President for Protected Communications at Lockheed Martin Space. "I am incredibly proud of the teams that made this happen over the many years supporting the program. It is a bittersweet moment and I look forward to working with the Space Force to continue deliver this system on orbit, and increase our nation's overall survivable and protected.”
The satellite constellation provides "global, survivable, protected communications capabilities for strategic command and tactical warfighters operating on ground, sea and air platforms," according to Lockheed Martin. And it gives "senior leadership a survivable line of communications to military forces in all levels of conflict, including nuclear war," it said.
The system features encryption, a low probability of interception and detection, and it is jammer-resistant and able to penetrate the electro-magnetic interference caused by nuclear weapons, it added. Lockheed Martin developed and manufactured all six satellites at their production facility located in Sunnyvale, California.
The satellite was shipped to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on a Super Galaxy C-5 aircraft from the 60th Air Mobility Wing at Travis Air Force Base. The White House announced the creation of the new Space Force military arm in December, with President Donald Trump calling space "the world's newest warfighting domain.