The customized ASICs will decrease the size of AEHF payloads while increasing capacity. (Photo of payload circuit board courtesy of Northrop Grumman.)
Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites have been heralded for providing improved global, survivable, highly secure, jam-proof communications for strategic command and tactical warfighters. Thanks, in part, to customized semiconductors, AEHF payloads are now half the size and weight of previously used MILSTAR payloads. What they lack in size, however, these payloads make up for in capacity— providing up to 10 times more capacity than previous-generation satellites.
More than 800 application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) were delivered by Honeywell Aerospace and BAE Systems to Northrop Grumman for the Air Force’s fifth and sixth AEHF satellites. To deliver on-demand, flexible connectivity, the AEHF payloads blend on-board digital-signal-processing (DSP) hardware, firmware, and software. Each customized component reinforces the electronic units, providing AEHF-specific functions. These include on-board signal processing and a suite of 14 antennas, which provides users with upwards of millions of options for countering adversaries’ electronic, cyber, and physical threats.
Each payload has constellation interconnects, which are provided through satellite crosslinks. They form a global, protected network without requiring vulnerable overseas ground gateways or stations. To meet more than 3000 other specific requirements, every AEHF payload includes: almost one million lines of software code, 25 computers, nearly 800 ASICs, almost 18000 monolithic-microwave integrated circuits (ICs) of 70 unique designs, and more than 13000 integrated microwave assemblies as well as hybrids of 50 unique designs.
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