By Scott Prater
Accepting satellite control authority of Wideband Global SATCOM-5 here Monday, the 3rd Space Operations Squadron added increased capability to the constellation.
Launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., May 28, WGS-5 is the fifth vehicle in the WGS constellation and the second 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 Block I vehicles. It also includes new, user-preferred narrow-gauge antennas, a channelizer cable swap, which better utilizes bandwidth routing, and more efficient solar arrays.
Col. Bill Rittershaus, 50th Space Wing vice commander, and Lt. Col. Chadwick Igl, 3 SOPS commander, accepted the transfer of responsibility from Lt. Col. Sherman Johns, 14th Air Force deputy director of operations and exercises, during a conference call that also included Col. Xavier Chavez, Space and Missile Systems Center, acting director of Military Satellite Communications Systems Directorate.
“Thanks to everyone in 3 SOPS,” Rittershaus said. “This is a huge group effort in cooperation with SMC and it’s a significant milestone for space communications. Every time we bring a WGS satellite online it provides a huge increase in capability to the warfighter.”
Operators in 3 SOPS have been flying WGS-5 since Oct. 2 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 U.S. Strategic Command, 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 four 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 four months, 3 SOPS operators have been carefully preparing for the transfer of WGS-5 SCA. They have made more than 200 procedural changes and spent many hours training satellite vehicle operators on the Block II vehicle’s capabilities. The squadron also sent a launch-and-early-orbit team to Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., to provide support and continuity during the transition.
“We’ll fly WGS-5 with pride,” Igl said. “I want to thank the entire launch and early orbit team for helping support during the launch and early orbit activities. Wideband Global SATCOM-5 SCA also represents a critical step in declaring full operational capability of the WGS constellation.”
The Air Force has tentatively planned for 10 WGS satellites. Vehicle six launched from Cape Canaveral Aug. 8.