For AEHF-1, it wasn’t failure to launch. Nor was it a failure to orbit.
Rather, it was a failure to achieve a proper orbital insertion.
This is thought to be due to a quality mistake that resulted in a blocked fuel line in the AEHF’s low thrust liquid apogee engine. That LAE failure followed nominal launch vehicle and upper stage performance and the LAE was to be used to put the AEHF-1 in its final orbit. Normally such a failure would be catastrophic.
However, thanks to a fortuitous event, the presence of super-low thrust Hall Current Thrusters, AEHF-1 will be able to get to where it’s supposed to go; it’ll just take a year longer than planned.
As a result, Lockheed seems certain to lose out on some of the mission assurance/award fee money they’d been looking forward to.
The Undersecretary of the Air Force, Erin Conaton and The Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for Space Programs, Rich McKinney are trying to get their cost/schedule/performance licks in by piling onto the recent CSAF ‘stinging rebuke’ to contractors.
Of course, until the Air Force has blue suit spacecraft build, launch, and early orbit ops (kind of like the way the Chinese do it) paying a contractor is the only option.
While Lockheed is no doubt embarrassed, I don’t think they’re quaking in their boots as another five AEHF’s are in the queue and the Air Force is probably disinclined to have Boeing take over the program.