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More power means better warfighter support

Assembly of the Wideband Global SATCOM Satellite took place at Boeing corporation facilities in California. Here, the satellite is being enclosed within the nosecone of the rocket that carried it into orbit. (Photo courtesy Boeing Corp.)

Assembly of the Wideband Global SATCOM Satellite took place at Boeing corporation facilities in California. Here, the satellite is being enclosed within the nosecone of the rocket that carried it into orbit. (Photo courtesy Boeing Corp.)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- A new satellite is circling the Earth. The Wideband Global SATCOM satellite is a reality. This is the most powerful communications satellite in the Department of Defense inventory. It is the first of six satellites that will take over long-haul communications from the legacy constellation, the Defense Satellite Communications System. WGS went operational April 15.

A one-quarter, scale model of the satellite hangs in the Air Force Space Command headquarters building. At its dedication, AFSPC Commander Gen. C. Robert Kehler said, "We should paint this model purple because it is a perfect illustration of the fact that everything about space is joint."

Many years ago, when a new communications satellite was needed, the Air Force would build it, launch it and then other services could use the capabilities it provided. Today, the warfighting community, including AFSPC, get together and define the requirements for today and into the future and then the engineers go to work to design a capability that will support the warfighter for the estimated life expectancy of the satellite.

WGS is an example of such cooperation. Originally planned as a gap filler between the DSCS system and a more capable system, it evolved to become the new system. Each WGS is more capable than the entire nine-satellite DSCS constellation now in operation. The six-satellite WGS constellation will be operational sometime in 2012.

The joint aspect of this satellite constellation is similar to the way the DSCS constellation operates. Air Force Space Command is charged with "flying" the WGS satellite through the 3rd Space Operations Squadron located at Schriever AFB, Colo. The 3rd SOPS continuously monitors and maintains satellite health by performing daily telemetry, tracking and commanding functions.

The Army's Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command operates the payload in direct support of the warfighting community and other government agencies throughout the DoD.

Peter Stauffer, director of the Wideband SATCOM Division at SMDC/ARSTRAT spoke about the difference WGS payload capabilities will make to the warfighter.

"WGS provides a quantum leap in capabilities -- not only in throughput but in operational flexibility," he said. "The ability for the warfighter to exchange information faster using higher data rates and more efficiently with the ability to reach different locations simultaneously is part of the inherent capability of WGS. Data, full motion video, maps, voice and imagery will be received and transmitted by warfighters at all levels -- tactical, operational and strategic."

Mr. Stauffer also addressed the difference in operations for the Army units operating the payload.

"Network planning and payload operations for WGS are more complicated than with the DSCS system. The operational flexibility provided by WGS, cross-banding between X-band and Ka-band, transmitting between multiple beams (multi-cast), fan-in, and fan-out -- just to name a few -- makes planning and payload management more challenging," Mr. Stauffer added. "The expertise and dedication of our people in the SATCOM Support Centers and 53rd Signal Battalion is going to make the difference. They understand the importance of this mission and they will make it happen."

The Joint operation of this satellite is a pure example of Air Force and Army warfighting commands supporting the entire warfighter community.