LOS ANGELES — The U.S. Air Force says activation of its Advanced Extremely High Frequency ( ) military communications satellite continues to progress well, and the launch of two more jam-proof satellites is now on track for 2012.
Although launched in August 2010, the AEHF satellite took 14 months to reach orbit on Oct. 24, 2011, after debris in the propulsion system prevented the spacecraft’s liquid-fueled booster engine from placing the satellite in its correct apogee.
“It’s in orbit and has been in checkout since then,” says the commander of, Gen. William Shelton. “All the payload systems and antenna have deployed properly, although I was concerned after that long a cold soak. Yet everything is performing as expected.”
The Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB intends to transfer responsibility for the satellite to the 14th Air Force early next year. With the planned launch of AEHF-2 in April 2012, the Air Force says preparations also are underway to deploy AEHF-3 in December 2012 and AEHF-4 in April 2017.
Shelton, who spoke at the Air Force Association’s Global Warfare Symposium here, also said that the initial Space-Based Infrared System () GEO-1, which shares the same A2100 satellite bus design as the AEHF series, also is performing well after a prolonged checkout following its launch in May.
Although Shelton says the overall checkout process “took too long in my mind,” he notes that the precautionary approach to activating the first-of-a-kind capabilities of the new-generation missile warning satellite was correct. “You have to make sure you do it right,” he declares.
Launch of Sbirs GEO-2 is currently penciled in for spring 2013, the Air Force says.