The US Air Force has beefed up its space arsenal. This week, the service announced the successful launch of its latest communication satellite. The USAF has launched the fifth AEHF-5 (Advanced Extremely High Frequency) communications satellite for the Air Force Space and Missile System Center.

A ULA-made Atlas 5 rocket carrying the fifth AEH-5 satellite launched from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The huge Atlas V rocket began a five-hour journey from Earth to reach the target point in space and complete the next step in deploying the AEHF-5 satellite.

It took the USAF about 5 hours and 40 minutes to deliver the payload to the geosynchronous transfer orbit and complete the entire space mission. The launch of the AEHF-5 satellite marks the 80th Atlas 5 mission since the inaugural launch in 2002 and the 251st launch of the hydrogen-fueled Centaur rocket. Watch the Live Launch Broadcast below.

What the new satellite will bring to the Air Force

As mentioned earlier by Space News, the AEHF satellites system was developed by Lockheed Martin to provide jam-proofed, survivable and secured communications capabilities for both the US government agencies and the US military forces. In addition to the US government and military forces, The Netherlands, Canada, and the United Kingdom also use the AEHF satellites system, the website reported.

The US government has awarded Lockheed Martin a contract to build and deliver six AEHF satellite systems as well as the Mission Control Segment. The latest AEHF satellite features an advanced XDR technology, which significantly increases data speeds and faster communication transmission across the vast US military networks.

The fourth AEHF satellite was launched in October 2018. The UAL-built Atlas V rocket launched the first AEHF satellite in 2010. It was followed by the second successful launch in 2012, and the third in 2013. The fourth AEHF satellite, according to the technology-focused website Air Force Technology, was launched in October 2018.

Lockheed Martin is currently working on the sixth AEHF satellite system at its advanced satellite manufacturing facility in Sunnyvale, California. Lockheed Martin is an American technology company that specializes in aerospace, advanced technologies, defense, and security system. The tech giant's based in Bethesda, Maryland and it operates a number of facilities across the United States.

UAL (United Launch Alliance) is a Colorado-based company that develops and operates a number of space rockets capable of delivering space payloads. UAL is a joint venture between two of the biggest aerospace and defense contractors in the market, Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Boeing Defense, Space & Security.

New satellite contract awards to a small launch provider

In another space-related story, Vector Launch, a small US-based space launch provider, has received a $3.4 million contract from the US Air Force Rocket Systems Launch Programs to help the Air Force send experimental satellites into space. Under the contract, the Vector-built ASLON-45 (Agile Small Launch Operational Normalizer) will deliver multiple 3U and larger CubeSats to low Earth orbit. The company will provide all the payload integration and launch operations, according to the website Space News.

The $3.4 million space contract falls under the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Small Rocket Program Orbital program. The contract was officially announced to the public on August 7.

The planned launch will take place at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The Air Force has scheduled the initial launch capability of the ASLON-45 launch vehicle on the third quarter of 2021.