First Milstar satellite marks 10 years of service
Posted: February 12, 2004

The first U.S. Air Force Milstar communications satellite, built by a team led by Lockheed Martin, has achieved its 10-year design life of on-orbit service, providing our nation's warfighters with secure and reliable communications during military operations since 1994.

An artist's concept of a Milstar satellite in space. Credit: Lockheed Martin
Launched aboard a Titan 4 launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral on Feb. 7, 1994, the first Milstar satellite is one of two Block I spacecraft on orbit equipped with a UHF and Low Data Rate EHF payload provided by Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif., and equipped with crosslink payloads to communicate between on-orbit satellites, built by Boeing Satellite Systems, El Segundo, Calif.

The Air Force transitioned to the Block II configuration with the successful launch of the first Milstar 2 satellite in 2001. The Milstar Block II system offers a variety of enhanced communications features for the U.S. military, including the Medium Data Rate EHF payload also built by Boeing Satellite Systems, which can process data at speeds up to 1.5 megabits per second.

"The Milstar team takes extreme pride in Milstar's impressive record of performance and longevity," said Leonard F. Kwiatkowski, vice president, military space, Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Sunnyvale. "For over 10 years, Milstar has served as the backbone of secure military communications capabilities and will continue to make an important contribution to national security for many years to come."

Milstar is the Defense Department's most technologically advanced telecommunications satellite system, which provides critical, secure links to U.S. national leaders, air, land and sea forces around the globe. The Milstar system is the only survivable, endurable means that the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Commander, U.S. Strategic Command have to maintain positive command and control of this nation's strategic forces.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Sunnyvale, Calif. is the prime contractor, satellite bus provider, ground command & control provider and lead systems integrator for Milstar, which were launched aboard Lockheed Martin-built Titan 4B/Centaur rockets from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

On April 8, 2003, the final Milstar 2 was launched successfully and the team achieved an accelerated on-orbit checkout so that satellite's high-speed, highly protected communications capabilities could be quickly placed into operational service.

With the final Milstar on orbit, the first space-based global network is now in operation, providing a secure communications network which can transmit voice, data, and imagery, in addition to offering video teleconferencing capabilities for the Department of Defense. The Milstar team is led by the MILSATCOM Joint Program Office at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin employs about 130,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture and integration of advanced technology systems, products and services. The corporation reported 2003 sales of $31.8 billion.