The International Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) Program
April 23/19: 11th WGS Communication Space Vehicle Boeing won a $605 million modification for the production of the Air Force’s 11th Wideband Global Satellite (WGS) Communication Space Vehicle. The DoD uses the WGS system to communicate with warfighters across the globe. Ten Ka-band and 8 X-band beam can be positioned anywhere in the field of view of each satellite. WGS combines unique commercial spacecraft capabilities that Boeing has developed, including phased array antennas and digital signal processing technology, into a powerful, flexible architecture. United Launch Alliance ULA is scheduled to launch the 11th satellite aboard a Delta IV rocket in November 2023. Since 2001, Boeing has been the prime contractor of the WGS, which was first launched in 2008. GS 4, which was launched off in 2012, was the first Block II series. WGS-10 was meant to be the last of the constellation. But in March 2018, Congress added $600 million for the procurement of WGS-11 and WGS-12. Boeing will perform work under the modification in El Segundo, California and expects completion by November 20, 2023.
The US military needs a bigger data firehose. In an era of streaming data from proliferating UAVs and other persistent surveillance platforms, and the need for control of those systems anywhere in the world, bandwidth is almost as important as fuel. Commercial satellite communications (SATCOM) can fill some of the gaps, but it’s expensive, and may not be available when needed. The Wideband Gapfiller SATCOM (now Wideband Global SATCOM) program began as a way to ease these problems in the near term, but went on to become one of the twin pillars of US military communications, alongside the hardened AEHF constellation. Both satellite types expanded their roles after the super-high bandwidth T-SAT program was canceled. Instead, the USA is adding WGS and AEHF satellites in space, even as it makes both programs multi-national efforts here on earth.
WGS is a set of 13-kilowatt spacecraft based on Boeing’s model 702 commercial satellite. These satellites will handle a significant portion of the USA’s warfighting bandwidth requirements, supporting tactical C4ISR(command, control, communications, and computers; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance); battle management; and combat support needs. Upon its 2007 launch into geosynchronous orbit, WGS Flight 1 became the U.S. Department of Defense’s highest capacity communication satellite. WGS F4, launched in January 2012, offers further improvements, as do satellites from WGS F8. The constellation is set to grow to 10, including international participation.
This is DID’s FOCUS Article covering the WGS program’s specifications, budgets, travails, international partnerships, and contracts, with links to additional research materials.
WGS: Capabilities & Role
The WGS Program & Schedule
Budgets & Participants
WGS Industrial Team
WGS Program: Contracts & Key Events
FY 2001 – 2005
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