The first piece of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications system made its way into space recently with the launch of the AEHF 1 satellite. Also referred to as Milstar III, the planned successor to the current Milstar system will consist of three or more geostationary satellites, each of which has five times the capacity of current Milstar satellites. They will communicate with each other directly via crosslinks, and with the ground via narrow spot beams. The AEHF "is built to provide the highest levels of protection for our nation's most critical users. Encryption, low probability of intercept and detection, jammer resistance and the ability to penetrate the electro-magnetic interference caused by nuclear weapons are essential features when communication can be of the highest priority," said Col. Michael Sarchet, commander of the Protected Satellite Communications Group at the Space and Missile Systems Center. The craft will spend the next 100 days in testing, circularizing the orbit 22,300 miles over the equator with its conventional and exotic ion propulsion systems, at which point it should enter service from an orbital location to be determined.

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