Boeing ups bandwidth for US Air Force satellite

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Boeing is to produce a fourth Wideband Gapfiller Satellite (WGS), under a new $300m contract with the US Air Force.

WGS-4 will be similar to the three Block I satellites Boeing is already building, but will include a radio frequency bypass capability designed to support airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms that require additional bandwidth.

The radio frequency bypass will support data rates of up to 311 megabits per second. The 13kW WGS satellites are based on Boeing's 702 models and are designed to provide improved communications support for America's warfighters. WGS-4 is expected to launch in early 2011.

‘The procurement of this fourth WGS satellite places us on a solid path to increase the capabilities of the Department of Defense communications constellation,’ said Lieutenant Colonel Adam Mortensen of the US Air Force, who is the WGS Block II programme manager. ‘The additional satellite substantially increases the tactical communications capacity in key geographic areas, and will provide a critical capability to support data relay from new unmanned aerial vehicles that are coming online.’

WGS will augment and eventually replace the Defense Satellite Communication System (DSCS) currently in orbit. One WGS satellite will support more throughput than the entire DSCS constellation. The first WGS Block I satellite is scheduled for launch in mid-2007.

The WGS-4 deal is the first option to be exercised under the WGS Block II contract, which was finalised last month. The Block II contract is valued at just over $1bn if all options are exercised.