By Scott Prater
With its acceptance of satellite control authority of Wideband Global SATCOM-4 here Monday, the 3rd Space Operations Squadron recognized a substantial increase in capability to its fleet of military communications satellites.
Launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Jan. 19, WGS-4 is the fourth vehicle in the WGS constellation, but the first spacecraft in the program’s Block II series. It features a new radio frequency bypass that supports the transmission of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance imagery at data rates three times greater than previous WGS vehicles. It also includes new, user-preferred narrow-gauge antennas, a channelizer cable swap, which better utilizes bandwidth routing and more efficient solar arrays.
“Today marks a significant milestone in the operational life of a satellite — the transfer of SCA to an operational unit,” said Col. James Ross, 50th Space Wing commander. “It is my privilege to recognize and applaud the hard work and dedication demonstrated by the 3 SOPS team to reach this goal.”
Ross and Lt. Col. Chadwick Igl, 3 SOPS Commander, accepted the transfer of responsibility from Col. Todd Brost, 14th Air Force director of operations and exercises, during a conference call that also included Luke Schaub, Space and Missile Systems Center Wideband SATCOM Division Program Manager.
Operators in 3 SOPS have been flying WGS-4 since April 11 on behalf of the Military Satellite Communications Systems Directorate, (a division of the Space and Missile Systems Center). Satellite Control Authority is the last step before the vehicle is operationally released to the USSSTRATCOM, the owning combatant command, who will then assign users based on priorities and requirements.
The WGS system of satellites is the follow-on to the Defense Satellite Communications System. The new vehicle joins an eight satellite constellation of DSCS communications satellites and three WGS satellites that 3 SOPS operators currently command and control. Together, the constellations provide flexible, high-capacity communications for U.S. forces throughout the world while enabling battle management and combat support information functions.
During the past few months, 3 SOPS operators have been carefully preparing for the transfer of WGS-4 SCA. They have made more than 200 procedural changes and spent many hours training satellite vehicle operators on the capabilities of the Block II vehicle.
“As the commander of 3 SOPS, I am proud to represent all of the squadron members today as we officially accept Satellite Control Authority for WGS-4,” Igl said. “This vehicle brings significant increases in bandwidth and capability to the warfighter. I want to specifically thank all of the 3 SOPS Airmen who fly and operate both the DSCS and WGS constellations for their daily efforts that support warfighters.”
The Air Force has tentatively planned for ten WGS satellites with vehicles five and six planned to launch next year.