Lockheed Martin [LMT] is scheduled to deliver to Northrop Grumman [NOC] today the system module of the fourth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite (AEHF-4) for payload integration, according to a Lockheed Martin spokesman.

Lockheed Martin spokesman Michael Friedman also said yesterday the payload integration effort is six months ahead of schedule and the Lockheed Martin-Northrop Grumman team is “well on track” for scheduled AEHF-4 launch availability in early 2017. Northrop Grumman spokesman Bob Bishop yesterday confirmed the company will take delivery of the AEHF-4 system module today. Bishop said Northrop Grumman has been assembling the modules and electronic units, or black boxes, for AEHF-4’s payload. Bishop said delivery of the AEHF-4 system module means Northrop Grumman can begin actual integration of AEHF-4’s communications payload.

AEHF is the Defense Department’s survivable, secure military communications satellite constellation. Lockheed Martin is the AEHF prime contractor with Northrop Grumman acting as subcontractor.

“As we continue to build AEHF satellites, we are able to leverage lessons learned from previous spacecraft, streamline our processes, share resources with similar programs and reduce redundant testing activities to reduce costs and deliver the best possible value to our government customer,” Friedman said.

Lockheed Martin also completed a milestone for the second AEHF satellite (AEHF-2). The company said in a Nov. 14 statement it completed on-orbit testing of AEHF-2 and turned Satellite Control Authority over to the 14th Air Force at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., for operations after testing. Friedman said AEHF-2 has performed “exceptionally” on orbit, saying the satellite successfully completed 26-of-26 test cases and 97-of-97 test objectives. Friedman said the AEHF team completed all 26 on-orbit test cases ahead of schedule with a 66-percent reduction in the time compared to AEHF-1.

The Air Force in August successfully activated AEHF-2’s satellite payload (Defense Daily, Aug. 15). AEHF-2 was launched May 4.

Friedman said now that Lockheed Martin’s work on AEHF-2 is “largely complete,” the company will now turn its attention to preparing AEHF-3 for a successful launch. Friedman said Lockheed Martin recently pulled AEHF-3 out of storage and is now completing final factory work on the satellite before it is shipped to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., in the summer of 2013 for its scheduled launch availability in September 2013.

AEHF is designed to provide survivable, global, protected and jam-resistant communications for ground, sea and air assets. The joint program is run by the Air Force and also supports special operations, special nuclear operations, missile defense, space operations and intelligence. A single AEHF satellite provides greater total capacity than the entire legacy five-satellite Milstar constellation, according to a Lockheed Martin statement. AEHF is a follow-on to the Milstar system, augmenting, improving, and expanding DoD’s Military Satellite Communication (MILSATCOM) architecture, according to a statement.