By Scott Prater
Though the 3rd Space Operations Squadron accepted satellite control authority of its sixth Wideband Global SATCOM satellite Dec. 17, the event was far from routine. It marked several milestones for the squadron, the 50th Space Wing and the Air Force.
For starters, it was the first SCA transfer to occur inside the wing’s Integrated Operations Environment.
Colo. Bill Liquori, 50 SW commander, and Lt. Col. Chadwick Igl, 3 SOPS commander, accepted the transfer of responsibility for WGS-6 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.
“I’d like to thank and congratulate everyone who was involved in making this happen,” Liqouri said. “This vehicle is going to provide great benefit to a host of new users.”
Launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Aug. 7, WGS-6 is not only the third and final spacecraft in the program’s Block II series, it is the first WGS satellite purchased by the Australian government.
“This day represents another milestone for the Air Force and its international partnerships,” Igl said. “This partnership to share WGS constellation resources with Australia is proportionate to Australia’s overall investment in the WGS program.”
Australia bought into the WGS program to the tune of $700 million. Its government not only fully funded WGS-6, but also constructed two remote monitoring and control stations to assist in payload management and tracking of WGS vehicles. They are also working side-by-side at select Wideband Satellite Operations Centers operated by the Army’s 53rd Signal Battalion.
Through an agreement, WGS-6 will be placed over the Pacific Ocean, where Australia has direct access. In turn, Australia will provide telemetry to 3 SOPS from its new ground stations. The agreement also provides Australia with a specific percentage of WGS constellation bandwidth.
And, there’s more to come.
“The Air Force originally planned three WGS satellites,” said Capt. Brent Ruttle, 3 SOPS WGS Engineering Section chief. “WGS-6 kicked off this idea of creating international partnerships to share resources. We now have similar partnerships with New Zealand, Canada and other NATO countries that will fund portions of later WGS satellites.”
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 satellites and five 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.
Wideband Global SATCOM-7, the first of the WGS Block II follow-on vehicles, is tentatively slated for launch in mid-2015.