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The Wideband Global SATCOM system (WGS) is a high capacity satellite communications system planned for use in partnership by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) and the Australian Department of Defence. The system is composed of the Space Segment satellites, the Terminal Segment users and the Control Segment operators.
DoD wideband satellite communication services are currently provided by a combination of the existing Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) and Global Broadcast Service (GBS) satellites. According to United Launch Alliance, quoted on Spaceflight Now, "A single WGS spacecraft has as much bandwidth as the entire existing DSCS constellation."
The constellation of WGS satellites increases the communications capabilities of the militaries of the United States, Canada, and Australia by providing additional bandwidth and communications capabilities for tactical command and control, communications, and computers; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR); battle management; and combat support information. Canada has also signed on to become a partner.
WGS also augments the current Ka-band Global Broadcast Service (on UHF F/O satellites) by providing additional information broadcast capabilities as well as providing new two-way capability on that band. The combination of the Wideband Global Satellites, DSCS satellites, GBS payloads, wideband payload and platform control assets, and earth terminals operating with them has been referred to as the Interim Wideband System (IWS).[who?] It provides services to the US Dod and Australian Department of Defence. The IWS System supports continuous 24 hour per day wideband satellite services to tactical users and some fixed infrastructure users. Limited protected services will be provided under conditions of stress to selected users employing terrestrial modems capable of providing protection against jamming.
The WGS satellites will complement the DSCS III Service Life Enhancement Program (SLEP) and GBS payloads and will offset the eventual decline in DSCS III capability. WGS will offer 4.875 GHz of instantaneous switchable bandwidth, thus each WGS can supply more than 10 times the capacity of a DSCS III Service Life Enhancement Program (SLEP) satellite. Once the full constellation of 6 WGS satellites is operational, they will replace the DSCS system. WGS-1 with its 2.4 Gbit/s wideband capacity, provided greater capability and bandwidth than all the DSCS satellites combined.
Operation and usage of the system is broken into 3 segments.
The end users of the communication services provided by the WGS are described by the DoD as the terminal segment. Users include the Australian Defence Force and U.S. Army ground mobile terminals, U.S. Navy ships and submarines, national command authorities for the nuclear forces, and various national security/allied national forces. Additionally, the Air Force Satellite Control Network will also use the WGS in a similar manner as the DSCS III constellation is used to route ATM packets through the DISA "cloud" to establish command and control streams with various satellite constellations. One of the emerging applications is SATCOM-ON-The-Move which is now being extensively used on the military tactical vehicles for Blue Force Tracking and C3 missions.
The satellite operators in charge of commanding and monitoring the satellite's bus and payload systems as well as managing the network operating over the satellite are the control segment. Like the DSCS constellation that WGS will replace, spacecraft bus will be commanded by the 3rd Space Operations Squadron of Schriever AFB, Colorado. Payload commanding and network control will be handled by the Army 53rd Signal Battalion headquartered at nearby Peterson AFB, Colorado with subordinate elements A Co. at Fort Detrick, Maryland, B Co. at Fort Meade, Maryland, E Co. at Fort Buckner, Okinawa Japan, C Co. Landstuhl Germany, and, D Co. Wahiawa, Hawaii.
The primary contractor for the satellites themselves is Boeing Satellite Development Center, which is building them around the Boeing 702 satellite platform. Originally five satellites were planned. On October 3, 2007, Australia's Department of Defence announced that the country would fund a sixth satellite in the constellation. Once in their orbits at an altitude of 22,300 mi (35,900 km), each will weigh approximately 7,600 lb (3,400 kg). The program intends to use both the Delta IV and the Atlas V as launch vehicles. The Air Force Space Command estimates each satellite will cost approximately US$300 million.
The first three WGS satellites form Block I of the space segment. WGS satellites 4, 5, and 6 make up Block II.
The first launch (WGS-1) was conducted by United Launch Alliance (ULA) on 1 October 10, 2007. The satellite was carried by an Atlas V (421) lifting off from LC-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). After launch, the WGS-1 satellite was given the US military designation USA-195. Its coverage area stretches from the U.S. western coast to Southeast Asia.
Launch of the second satellite (WGS-2) was also conducted by ULA, at 01:31 GMT on April 4, 2009, using an Atlas V 421. A ULA Delta IV flying from LC-37B at CCAFS launched the third spacecraft on 6 December 2009. The WGS-2 satellite was positioned over the equator around 60° East longitude (over the Indian Ocean) for use by U.S. Central Command in Afghanistan, Iraq and other parts of Southwest Asia. Originally, the second spacecraft was to fly on the Delta, and the third on the Atlas, but they were switched for an undisclosed reason.
WGS-3 was launched on December 6, 2009, covers the eastern Atlantic Ocean. The satellite was launched by a Delta IV "Medium+ (5,4)" rocket (originally Atlas V but switched with WGS-2; see above).
In May, 2013, Boeing reported that the WGS-6 satellite had been shipped to Florida, WGS-6 was launched on a Delta IV rocket at 20:29 EDT (00:29 GMT) on 7 August 2013 from Cape Canaveral Airforce Base.
On Aug. 23, 2010, Boeing was awarded an Air Force contract worth $182 million to begin work on the seventh WGS satellite. The new spacecraft is being procured under the WGS Block II follow-on contract. The contract will ultimately include options for production of up to six WGS satellites.