Next-Generation US Military Communications Satellite Ready for Launch

A Delta IV Medium +(5,4) rocket prior to launch from Cape Canaveral (Credits: United Launch Alliance).

The United Launch Alliance announced that it had successfully completed prelaunch testing and was on schedule to launch the next-generation Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS-4) military telecommunications satellite on January 19th at 7:38 EST. The 6-ton satellite will be launched atop a Delta 4 Medium+ rocket from Cape Canaveral.

“This launch will be another important step in advancing communications capabilities for U.S. warfighters and allies around the world,” said Craig Cooning, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems. “When it enters service, WGS-4 will join three other WGS satellites that deliver critical communications to help warfighters execute missions with greater safety and efficiency.”

The 464-million USD satellite is the first of the upgraded Block II (WGS 4-6) component of the WGS constellation, which will offer roughly triple the data rate of the original system. The WGS satellites will be used to transmit data across the Middle East and Southwest Asia, including voice communications, video conferencing, weather information, and intelligence files. It will also communicate routing telemetry and data streams from the growing number of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) the US military has deployed in the region.

An artist's depiction of the WGS-4 satellite in Earth orbit (Credits: Boeing).

The WGS satellite constellation is based on Boeing’s 702HP bus platform, which allows for high performance, high-capacity payloads due to its advanced xenon-ion propulsion, deployable thermal radiators, and highly efficient triple junction gallium-arsenide solar arrays. The WGS satellites replace the older Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) constellation, offering as much bandwidth using a single WGS satellite as the entire DSCS constellation.

The video below shows a Delta IV Medium launching from Cape Canaveral in July 16, 2011.


About the author

Joel Spark


Joel Spark is a Canadian space enthusiast currently working towards an MSc in Space Management at the International Space University near Strasbourg, France. He is driven by a passion for space systems engineering, particularly in applications involving the improvement of living conditions on Earth. He holds Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, with a specialty in structures, systems, and vehicle design.

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