Fourteen months after launching from Cape Canaveral, a military communications satellite has finally reached its intended orbit more than 22,000 miles above the planet.
A premature engine shutdown hobbled the Air Force's first Advanced Extremely High Frequency military communications satellite shortly after an Atlas V rocket deployed it in orbit on Aug. 14, 2010.
Six smaller thrusters and an electronic propulsion system enabled the Lockheed Martin Corp.-built spacecraft to slowly inch its way upward, and it arrived at its destination Monday, according to the Air Force's Space and Missile Systems Center, or SMC.
Despite needing "a sophisticated campaign" of roughly 500 engine burns to reach its geosynchronous orbit, the Air Force said the satellite's required 14-year mission life had not been compromised.
"I am extremely proud of the entire AEHF team for its ability to apply engineering excellence, superior teamwork and remarkable creativity to accomplish this very important milestone in the program," said Dave Madden, director of SMC's MILSATCOM Systems Directorate, in a statement.
The satellite is the first in a $6.5 billion program upgrading systems designed to provide the most secure military communications and to survive nuclear war. Find more background in this Air Force fact sheet.
The satellite now begins a four-month checkout period with plans to enter operations early in 2012.