The AEHF-5 lifted off aboard its delivery vehicles, the AtlasV first stage booster, and the Centaur second stage at 6:13 am EDT on Thursday, August 8, 2019.

AEHF-5 Launch Day (82)

Lift Off AEHF-5 ITL Causeway

The United States Air Force warfighters positioned anywhere on earth depend greatly on reliable, clear, and safe communications to and from theatre and command. The Lockheed Martin satellite is the most advanced in the field serving international partners Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. AEHF-5 will be a protected communications relay to provide the highest levels of information protection to the nation’s most critical users and designed to operate in a nuclear war.  ‘The system, operated by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, features encryption, low probability of intercept and detection, jammer resistance and the ability to penetrate the electromagnetic interference caused by nuclear weapons to direct communications, real-time video, maps and targeting data to users on land, at sea or in the air.” In the future, this satellite constellation will play an integral part of B-2 bomber operations and those of Air Force One while airborne during a moment of crisis, says Major Mathew Getts, USAF Space and Missile Center. Major Getts goes on to say the system data flow rate will increase from 100 MB to 1GB.


Image: United Launch Alliance

This mission is the 80th Atlas-V launch, the vehicle is stacked in the 551 configuration. Meaning, a 5-meter fairing, 5-SRB’s (solid rocket boosters), and 1 Centaur 2nd stage motor. The booster is powered by a Russian-built RD-180 engine burning RP-1 (kerosene) and liquid oxygen (LOX), while the 2nd stage is powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne  (Pratt & Whitney designed) RL10C-1 fueled with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen (LH2). Past missions launched in this configuration include a Pluto satellite-New Horizons, the Juno mission to Jupiter and several military payloads including the previous 4 AEHF satellites. Soon, the Atlas-V and sister Delta-IV will yield to the newer Vulcan Class rocket. More on that in another report.

Below is the 551 configuration.

AtlasV 551

Image: United Launch Alliance


Space Launch Complex 41 CCAFS

One of the latest developments in the growth and with upgrades of the Atlas-V is that of the Swiss company RUAG that manufactures space hardware for NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). They have, through their RUAG Space division expanded to several US cities including Decatur, AL, and Titusville, FL. The 5-meter fairing developed for the AEHF-5 satellite was manufactured in Switzerland however interstage adapters are in process in Decatur, AL and soon the mighty Atlas fairings will be completed in Decatur as well.

The ideal viewing, for closest to pad, is at Playalinda Beach Lot 1. SLC-41 is approximately 4.84 miles from the Park/NASA boundary fence if you walk south (approx. .95 mile) from Lot 1 after you cross over to the beach (on some launches the boundary is brought up to Lot 1 walkover). This is a very good photographic point of view, zoom in on the rocket, scale back a bit and include Launch Complex 39 with the beach and dunes, and even further back and capture all above with the large crowd in the foreground.

The yellow pins reference public access, free or with a fee. Playalinda Park and Jetty Park have an entrance fee and the Cocoa Beach Pier has a parking and pier access fee.

Launch Viewing SLC 41

This is the most powerful Atlas-V version and if the winds are blowing in the right direction it can be clearly heard. If you have any questions feel free to email us at murfampost@gmail.com.

Next up for the Air Force AEHF series will be the 6th satellite in the constellation targeted to launch in March 2020. The AEHF-6 is presently in Sunnyvale, CA undergoing final testing before being airlifted to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a Travis AFB C-5 military aircraft.

Featured Image: AEHF-4

Download the complete mission overview Here.

Enjoy The Launch!!!

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