ULA Atlas 5 launches Air Force AEHF-5 communications satellite


The Atlas V is a "workhorse" for the military.

The AEHF team includes the U.S. Air Force Military Satellite Communications Systems Directorate at the Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. Lockheed Martin Space, Sunnyvale, Calif., is the AEHF prime contractor, space and ground segments provider as well as system integrator, with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Redondo Beach, Calif., as the payload provider.

The mission's primary goal is to place a Lockheed Martin-built satellite into orbit.

AEHF satellites provide secure, jam-proof connectivity for USA national leadership and deployed military forces.

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From the five AJ-60A solid rocket motors that provided a combined 1.7 million lbs. of added liftoff thrust for the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket, to the XR-5 Hall Thrusters used to steer the spacecraft in orbit, Aerojet Rocketdyne provided a variety of propulsion systems to support the successful delivery of the fifth Lockheed Martin-built Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-5) satellite to orbit for the U.S. Air Force. The 551 is the largest of the Atlas V configurations, at 197 ft.

The AEHF-5 launch marks the 80th Atlas 5 mission since the inaugural launch in 2002 and the 10th in the 551 configuration with the Centaur upper stage and a five-meter diameter payload fairing. The first AEHF satellite was launched in 2010.

The 6,500 kg. AEHF-5 completes a geostationary ring of five satellites providing global coverage for the United States and worldwide partners Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. "AEHF affords national leaders anti-jam, always-on connectivity during all levels of conflict and enables both strategic and tactical users to communicate globally across a high-speed network that delivers protected communications in any environment".

The $1.1 billion satellite launched Thursday marked ULA's 74th mission for the US defense department and the fifth secure communications spacecraft for the Air Force's new constellation that will serve military-grade ground, sea and air communications for the USA troops, Canada, Britain, Australia, and the Netherlands.