WASHINGTON — The Air Force’s fourth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite, which provides highly protected communications for the Department of Defense, successfully launched aboard an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force base in Florida shortly after midnight Oct. 17.

The goal of the satellite constellation is to “provide survivable, global, secure, protected and jam-resistant communications for high-priority military ground, sea and air assets,” according to an Air Force statement. Maj. Matthew Getts of the Air Force’s Space and Missile Center in Los Angeles said AEHF-4 “will complete the fully operational constellation for AEHF."

This means the fourth AEHF satellite meets the minimum constellation requirements to bring global Extended Data Rate (XDR) connectivity online. XDR reportedly provides approximately 10 times more communications throughput than the Air Force’s legacy satellite system, known as Milstar. That difference in speed allows the transmission of real-time video, battlefield maps and targeting data to help combatant commanders and national leaders make optimal tactical and strategic decisions.

The prime contractor on the Air Force’s $15 billion program,, Lockheed Martin is under contract to deliver a total of six AEHF satellites. These satellites will be used by the United States and international partners including the United Kingdom, Canada and the Netherlands. The launch of the next satellite, AEHF-5, is scheduled for July 2019, Getts said.

“It’s good to return with our mission partners to see the culmination of expertise, skill and partnership that we have worked diligently toward to make this AEHF launch a success,” said Mike Cacheiro, vice president of protected communication systems at Lockheed Martin. “This is a substantial milestone for AEHF, and as we look ahead, we continue to improve and upgrade this mission to deliver these vital communications capabilities to the Air Force.”

Daniel Cebul is an editorial fellow and general assignments writer for Defense News, C4ISRNET, Fifth Domain and Federal Times.