4 SOPS welcomes 2nd AEHF satellite

An artist’s rendition of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency-2 satellite. The 4th Space Operations Squadron assumed command and control AEHF-2 during a brief ceremony Nov. 7. (Courtesy graphic)

By Scott Prater

Schriever Sentinel

The 4th Space Operations Squadron accepted satellite control authority of the second Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite here Nov. 7.

The MILSATCOM Program Office, a division of the Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles, has held SCA of the spacecraft, known as AEHF-2, since its launch in May.

David Madden, MPO director, started the transfer ceremony by handing control authority to the 50th Space Wing via the 14th Air Force.

Col. James Ross, 50 SW commander, accepted SCA then promptly delegated command and control of the vehicle to 4 SOPS and its Commander, Lt. Col. Scott Trinrud.

“We are excited and proud to achieve this significant milestone along the path to full operations for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency system of vehicles,” Trinrud said.

Along with its predecessor, AEHF-2 represents the next-generation follow-on satellite to the Milstar protected communications constellation and is designed to augment and improve Milstar’s capabilities. It will provide survivable, global, secure, protected and jam-resistant communications for high-priority military ground, sea and air assets.

Users include National Security Council members and unified combatant command commanders who control tactical and strategic forces at all levels of conflict, as well as international partners. Nearly identical to AEHF-1, it has eight times the capacity of a Milstar vehicle and is designed to perform its mission for 14 years.

Following a four-month journey, AEHF-2 reached geosynchronous orbit Aug. 27. Since then, more than 100 4 SOPS members have been exhaustively testing the satellite alongside SMC personnel.

The on-orbit operation started with a test of AEHF-2 as a single entity. Crews then cross linked the vehicle with AEHF-1 in an effort to study its advanced capabilities. Finally, operators linked AEHF-2 with other satellites in the Milstar constellation as a means for gauging its effectiveness as part of the unit.

“With a pair of AEHF satellites on orbit, we can now offer higher data rates for users via cross links between the satellites,” said Lt. Col. Alistair Funge, 4 SOPS director of operations. “Our crews and engineering support staff also picked up valuable hands-on experience with AEHF-2 during the testing phase. They used the Advance Satellite Mission Control Subsystem and Space-Ground Links System to monitor the constellation and perform testing operations.”

As part of the brief ceremony, Ross informed the squadron that it officially held responsibility for AEHF-2.

“I want to thank 4 SOPS and SMC members for their extraordinary teamwork and effort that made this not only a smooth transition but a successful test and check out of our newest next-generation asset,” Ross said.

Four satellites are currently planned to complete the AEHF constellation. The third vehicle is tentatively scheduled for launch in 2013.

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