Air Force's Salvage of High-Tech Satellite Going Well

WASHINGTON? A contingency plan to raise the altitude of the U.S. Air Force?sfirstAdvanced Extremely High Frequency satellite after one of its thrustersystemsfailed on orbit is moving along on schedule, a service official saidOct. 5.

Thesecure communications satellite AEHF-1, built by Lockheed Martin SpaceSystems of Sunnyvale,Calif., was successfully launched Aug. 14 into a highly ellipticalorbit ranging from230 kilometers above Earth at perigee to 50,000 kilometers above Earthatapogee. But shortly after launch, an engine malfunction left thesatelliteunable to reach its intended orbit as planned.

Thesatellite was designed to use its hydrazine-fueled liquid apogee enginetoraise its perigee to 19,000 kilometers over 30 days, and then use itsxenon-ionelectric thrusters to circularize its orbit at 36,000 kilometers over90 days.

Operatorsfirst attempted to fire the satellite?s liquid apogee engine Aug. 15,but itfailed. The Air Force announced Aug. 30 it had begun to implement abackup planto raise the satellite?s perigee to 19,000 kilometers using smalleronboard thrustersfueled by the same hydrazine tank as the liquid apogee engine.

Theplan is expected to take an additional six to seven months to completebut willnot reduce the satellite?s operational lifespan.

Fiveweeks into the contingency plan, the AEHF-1?s perigee has been raisedto about4,700 kilometers and the satellite remains on schedule to reach itsfinalgeostationary orbit between June 2011 and August 2011, Air Force SpaceandMissile Systems Center spokesman Joe Davidson said in an Oct. 5e-mailedresponse to questions.

Thisarticle was provided by Space News, dedicated tocovering all aspectsof the space industry.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

SpaceNews defense reporter

Turner Brinton is the director for public relations at Maxar Technologies, a space technology company based in Westminster, Colorado that develops satellites, spacecraft and space infrastructure. From 2007 to 2011, Turner served as a defense reporter for SpaceNews International, a trade publication dedicated to the global space industry. He left SpaceNews in 2011 to work in communications for Intelsat and later DigitalGlobe before joining the Maxar team.