By Senior Airman Arielle Vasquez
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
The 3rd Space Operations Squadron, along with various partners, witnessed the launch of the ninth Wideband Global SATCOM, which occurred March 18, from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
WGS-9 will join eight other WGS satellites, marking another milestone in providing additional communications capabilities to both U.S. forces and international partners.
WGS provides real-time data exchange necessary for tactical communications and supports a wide variety of missions for combatant commanders.
“The men and women of 3 SOPS are thrilled to be welcoming a new member to our on-orbit family,” said Lt. Col. Joshua Brooks, 3 SOPS commander. “WGS-9 is the next to last of the planned satellites in the Wideband Global SATCOM constellation, and will continue to improve and increase the United States Air Force and U.S. ability to provide global communications to U.S. and allied warfighters world-wide.”
In January 2012, Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and New Zealand signed a multilateral Memorandum of Understanding with the United States, agreeing to fund the procurement of the ninth WGS satellite. The United States is responsible for funding the launch, operation and sustainment of WGS-9. International partners will receive a proportional share of the bandwidth provided by the WGS constellation based on financial contribution.
3 SOPS will be heavily involved in the post launch processes, to include post launch testing, early orbit commanding, payload characterization and verification and orbital relocation.
“Once the satellite is launched, it must go through several stages before obtaining its operational orbit, which will be a geosynchronous orbit,” said 1st Lt. Travis Perry, 3 SOPS WGS engineering officer. “A geosynchronous orbit is a circular orbit extending approximately 22,000 miles above the Earth’s equator. The process of launch and early orbit is overseen by Boeing and will take approximately 120 days, after which Boeing will hand over the satellite to 3 SOPS.”
Perry will join other engineers in Hawaii to conduct Payload Characterization and Verification tests. After four weeks of testing the satellite, it will be relocated from the test location to an operational location. Perry and other 3 SOPS WGS engineers will command this relocation process from Schriever.
“Working on the payload portion of the spacecraft as we prepare to put it into operational use will be a challenge for me,” said Perry. “Our expertise here in 3 SOPS is the platform portion of the spacecraft, but this extra challenge makes the assignment all the more satisfying.”
A team from 3 SOPS has deployed to Boeing Mission Control Center, located in Los Angeles El Segundo, California, to command and control the satellite during launch and early orbit.
Matching the recently launched WGS-8, WGS-9 also includes the new state-of-the-art wideband digital channelizer that will increase communication capacity for the warfighter by approximately 45 percent compared to the first seven WGS satellites.
The next WGS satellite is currently being built by Boeing in El Segundo, and will bring the WGS constellation to a total of 10 satellites on orbit when launched.
“What’s rewarding is seeing 3 SOPS work hand-in-hand with partners from SMC, Boeing and the 45th Space Wing to bring this to fruition,” said Brooks. “This process has run so smoothly that there has been very few difficulties. It’s all part of living the dream of being involved with an amazing group of people, and working together to put an object in space which will help us defend the nation.”