WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force officially took control of the sixth and final Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite Oct. 29, with operational acceptance expected before the end of the year.

On Dec. 4, the Space Force announced that the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Production Corps transferred satellite control authority of the space vehicle to Space Operations Command. The 4th Space Operations Squadron will have operational control of the satellite as it’s integrated into the full constellation.

AEHF is the successor to MILSTAR, providing protected, jam-resistant satellite communications to high-priority United States military assets, as well as international allies Canada, the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Australia. Used for strategic and tactical use, one of the main selling points of the constellation is that it is survivable, enabling critical nuclear command and control capabilities and strategic communications in the event of a nuclear war.

“AEHF enables both strategic and tactical users to communicate globally across a high-speed network that delivers protected communications – including real-time video, battlefield maps and targeting data — in any environment,” said Erik Daehler, director of protected communications, Lockheed Martin Space.

The company was the primary contractor for the AEHF satellites, with Northrop Grumman providing the payloads. Lockheed Martin also built the ground system for the constellation.

A single AEHF satellite has three times the capacity of the entire MILSTAR constellation. Once completed, the AEHF constellation is expected to provide 10 times more throughput than its predecessor.

Utilizing a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, AEHF-6 was launched into orbit on March 26 — nearly 10 years after the first AEHF launch. The final AEHF launch was also the first one conducted by the newly created Space Force.

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

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