By Brian Hagberg
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
The 3rd Space Operations Squadron accepted satellite control authority of the Wideband Global SATCOM-7 satellite here Oct. 13, following a three month launch and early orbit checkout period.
“Our team spent about four to five hours today, both here in garrison and out [in California] going over everything,” said Lt. Col. Chris Todd, 3 SOPS commander. “It’s like checking over a car before you buy it, checking the fuel systems, engine block, making sure everything is ready to go.”
This SCA transfer brings the seventh of 10 satellites which will compose the WGS constellation into the control of 3 SOPS. The WGS constellation, when complete, will phase out the Defense Satellite Communications System.
“[WGS] multiplies [DSCS capabilities] 10 times,” said Col. Dennis Bythewood, 50th Operations Group commander. “It’s pushing data and intelligence out to the warfighter on a larger bandwidth. Our capability to push that data drives its dissemination.”
Because the number of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance drone flights the Air Force conducts regularly has grown exponentially during the last 10 years, an upgrade to the DSCS constellation was required in order to keep up. The WGS constellation will not only increase the bandwidth for the data from those drone flights to be disseminated, it will also bring improved capabilities.
“With more bandwidth, we can support more users,” Todd said.
WGS-7 was launched into orbit July 23, and has been monitored by a team from Boeing, with support from a four-man 3 SOPS team, at the Boeing Mission Control Center in El Segundo, California.
“Our team supports Boeing during the mission by playing the role of spacecraft engineer,” said 1st Lt. Joseph Cha, 3 SOPS WGS engineering officer. “A spacecraft engineer dictates the pace of operations since all commands are executed through our console. Additionally, we interface with the various subsystems of the satellite to ensure the proper command plans are being executed.”
The three month LEO period allows Boeing and Cha’s team to ensure the satellite functions properly before command and control is transferred to 3 SOPS.
“The period between launch and SCA transfer is the process of getting our satellite in orbit and ensuring it functions the way we originally planned,” Cha said. “Mission activities include executing numerous orbit raising burns, deploying solar arrays and initializing our payload amongst many other items.”
Cha’s team remained on console during the SCA transfer, configuring the satellite for final holdover and prepared to resolve any discrepancies between the Boeing Mission Control Center and 3 SOPS.
WGS-8 is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida in September 2016.