C2/Comms

US Space Force’s next communications satellite clears milestone

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force has completed preliminary design review of its new Wideband Global SATCOM satellites, bringing the program one step closer to beginning production.

“This engineering design review is a key milestone because it means we are one step closer to delivering this groundbreaking satellite to the wa rfighter in record timing, significantly improving capacity and coverage to soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.” said Col. John Dukes, chief of the Geosynchronous/Polar Division, which falls under the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Production Corps.

Slated for delivery by prime contractor Boeing in 2023, Wideband Global SATCOM 11 is expected to provide a massive capability boost to the 10 WGS satellites currently on orbit. The advanced communications satellite will also be more flexible than prior satellites in the series, with the ability to create more coverage beams than the entire existing constellation. Since each individual beam can be custom shaped to the military’s needs, operators will be able to tailor beams to get more broadband to forces that need it in any given situation.

WGS-11+ is a pacesetter program, meaning Space and Missile Systems Center is using the platform “for the rapid application of the latest commercial technology” industry can provide. The satellite is on a five-year production schedule — six months faster than prior WGS satellites.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the WGS program office, Boeing and others worked together to conduct the preliminary design review in an all-virtual environment over three days.

“The successful accomplishment of this significant milestone demonstrates the WGS team’s commitment to delivering these new capabilities to our war fighters on time, despite facing limitations in an unprecedented work environment.” said Major Shawna Matthys, WGS-11+ program manager.

With the preliminary design review complete, Boeing can now move forward with more detailed design work.

The Army is the primary user of the WGS constellation, using the satellites to connect soldiers all over the world. As U.S. adversaries work to develop systems that can jam or degrade satellite communications signals, the American military is responding by working on a more robust and reliable constellation for its forces.

In June, the Space Force successfully tested a new anti-jamming capability for WGS called Mitigation and Anti-Jam Enhancement, or MAJE. Once the MAJE software and hardware upgrades are installed on the Army’s Global SATCOM Configuration Control Element, the system will be able to detect, identify, locate and mitigate efforts to interfere with WGS signals.

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