By Scott Prater
The 4th Space Operations Squadron accepted satellite control authority of the third Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite here March 21.
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-3, since its launch Sept. 18.
Robert Tarleton, director of MILSATCOM systems directorate, started the transfer ceremony by handing control authority to the 50th Space Wing via the 14th Air Force.
Col. Tommy Roberts, 50th Operations Group commander, accepted SCA then promptly delegated command and control of the vehicle to 4 SOPS and its Commander, Lt. Col. Monte Munoz.
“When I was in 4 SOPS we spent a lot of time preparing for AEHF, but I never saw a launch,” said Roberts, a former 4 SOPS commander. “So, it’s special for me to be here and witness this success. Congratulations to the entire AEHF team.”
AEHF-3 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 and AEHF-2, 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-3 reached geosynchronous orbit in January. Since then, 4 SOPS members have been testing the satellite alongside SMC personnel.
Testing included transmitting an extended-data-rate signal through an AEHF vehicle to other AEHF vehicles, something that wasn’t possible with just two AEHF satellites on orbit.
Using XDR, AEHF satellites can transmit data at speeds much faster than legacy Milstar vehicles, allowing users to potentially communicate via video conference.
“Having three AEHF vehicles on orbit basically extends our footprint of XDR capabilities,” said Lt. Col. Alistair Funge, 4 SOPS operations officer. “The operational position of the satellite, and hence its coverage area, is up to U.S. Strategic Command. We are prepared to support users and the combatant commands’ needs wherever the satellite is finally positioned.”
As part of the brief ceremony, Munoz informed the squadron that it officially held responsibility for AEHF-3.
“This was an awesome job by the entire team getting AEHF-3 to this point,” he said.
The fourth AEHF vehicle is tentatively scheduled for launch in 2015.