Boeing and US Space Force developing advanced communication satellites
Boeing and the US Space Force have completed the first major engineering design review of a new generation of military communication satellites. Being developed by the United States Department of Defense, Canadian Department of National Defence, and the Australian Department of Defence, the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS)-11+ communications satellite now goes on to its final system design phase before Boeing begins production in 2024.
The WGS is one example of how space is becoming, in many ways, the battleground of the future. Not in the sense of flashing laser beams and satellites exploding (although there is that unpleasant possibility), but in how the major military powers and alliances are becoming increasingly dependent on space-based technology for communications, reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, weather monitoring, and much more. As a result, a space arms race is as much a matter of capturing the communications high ground as it is about war fighting.
First launched in 2007, the growing constellation of WGS satellites has continued to grow in both size and sophistication. Designed to complement existing Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) and Global Broadcast Service (GBS) satellites, the WGS constellation is currently made up of 10 satellites, which are the mainstay of the US military’s global communications system as well as that of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and Norway.
According to Boeing, the WGS-11+ has twice the capabilities of its predecessors, which is significant because a single WGS spacecraft has as much bandwidth as the entire existing DSCS constellation. The system supports communications and data transfer for tactical command and control operations, as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and combat support.
"WGS-11+ uses narrower spot beams to deliver a stronger, more reliable connection exactly where it’s needed, which means better performance and greater flexibility than ever before," says Troy Dawson, vice president of Boeing Government Satellite Systems.