WGS-9 arrives in Florida for launch


The Air Force Space Command Space and Missile Systems Center sponsored ninth Wideband Global SATCOM spacecraft arrived Jan. 10 at Titusville-Cocoa Airport, Florida.

The shipment of WGS-9 marks an important milestone for the launch campaign. WGS-9 will provide additional communications capabilities to both U.S. forces and international partners.

“This is a very special moment that marks yet another event in the significant relationship with Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and New Zealand with the shipment of WGS-9,” said Robert Tarleton, the director for the Military Satellite Communications Directorate. “We’re excited to get down to Florida and look forward to a successful launch.”

In January 2012, Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and New Zealand signed a multilateral Memorandum of Understanding with the United States, agreeing to fund the procurement of the ninth WGS satellite. The United States is responsible for funding the launch, operation and sustainment of WGS-9. International partners will receive a proportional share of the bandwidth provided by the WGS constellation based on financial contribution. The spacecraft is undergoing final processing, encapsulation and transport to the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The launch is scheduled for March 8.

1st Lt. David Heinrich, 3rd Space Operations Squadron WGS engineering officer, was selected along with 1st Lt. Bryce O’neill, and Senior Airmen Brandi Chaney and Shawnee Hewitt to work closely with Boeing El Segundo to conduct launch and early orbit operations for the upcoming launch.

“We were all given the opportunity to be a part of this as a spacecraft engineer, which is second in command when it comes to commanding the satellite initially. We’re the last set of eyes to confirm the correct commands are sent to the satellite,” said Heinrich. 

Wideband Global SATCOM provides anytime, anywhere communication for Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and international partners through broadcast, multicast, and point-to-point connections. WGS is the only military satellite communications system that can support simultaneous X-band and Ka-band communications with crossbanding.

“Generically speaking, if I only have Ka-band capabilities, and I wanted to speak to someone with an X-band capability on the other side of the line, I could do so because of the crossbanding capability that’s unique to the satellite,” said Heinrich.

WGS provides real-time data exchange necessary for tactical communications, and supports a wide variety of missions for combatant commanders around the world to perform missions. From search and rescue efforts to military operations.

Matching the recently launched WGS-8, WGS-9 also includes the new state-of-the-art wideband digital channelizer that will increase communication capacity for the warfighter by approximately 45 percent compared to the first seven WGS satellites. This increase in capacity will ensure U.S. and international partners have the capability to effectively coordinate on all mission areas, including air, land and naval warfare. The WGS constellation is the highest-capacity military communications system in the Department of Defense’s arsenal. With one more satellite in production, the WGS constellation is expected to have a total of 10 satellites on orbit by 2019.

Looking ahead, Heinrich is confident the satellite will perform optimally.

“3 SOPS is excited but when it comes down to it, it’s business as usual. I’m very proud to be a part of this and I’m proud of the people I’m going with. It took a lot of effort to get selected and I think we’re going to put up a good product that works well,” said Heinrich.

AFSPC’s Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California, is the U.S. Air Force's center for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes GPS, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space-based infrared systems, and space situational awareness capabilities.