The sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite completed its on-orbit test period Aug. 27, clearing the way for it to be transferred to the U.S. Space Force by the end of 2020, primary contractor Lockheed Martin announced Sept. 15.

“Successful [on-orbit test] demonstrates that all space vehicle performance requirements have been met and that we are on track for satellite control authority handover to Space Operations Command before the end of the year,” said Erik Daehler, director of Lockheed Martin’s protected communications mission area, in a statement. “This is a great accomplishment for the industry-government team, bringing incredible capability for our warfighters.”

The sixth AEHF completes a new constellation of protected, anti-jamming communications satellites built to replace the MILSTAR constellation. Each AEHF satellite has three times the capacity of the entire legacy system, with the entire AEHF constellation providing 10 times the throughput.

The system is designed for high-priority missions, including ensuring survivable, secure communications following a nuclear strike. AEHF will also serve U.S. international partners, including Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

AEHF-6 was launched March 26 from Cape Canaverla Air Force Station, Florida, as the Space Force’s first mission launch. AEHF-5 was officially transferred to the Space Force in February.

In March, the Space Force issued $685 million in contracts to Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing to develop payloads for Protected Tactical SATCOM (PTS), its next generation anti-jamming satellite communications system.

Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.

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