Australia To Fund Sixth WGS Satellite

[10-04-07 – Satellite Today] The Australian government will fund a sixth Wideband Global Satellite (WGS) under an agreement to have access to the U.S. satellite communications system, the Australian Defence Ministry announced Oct. 3.

Australia will fund the satellite plus associated ground infrastructure at a cost of 927 million Australian dollars ($822.7 million). Boeing is under contract with the U.S. Air Force to build three WGS Block 1 and two WGS Block 2 satellites, which will augment capacity provided by the Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS).

"This new partnership will further strengthen the Australia-U.S. alliance,”Brenden Nelson, Australia’s minister for defence, said in a statement. "It will enhance the close ties and high level of cooperation that already exists between Australian and U.S. defense force personnel.

The first WGS spacecraft is scheduled to be place into orbit Oct. 9, and the constellation is expected to be completed by 2013.

Mike Schavietello, Boeing’s WGS deputy program director, would not comment on the announcement because the deal between the two governments had not yet been completed, but said that the Air Force contract does include option for more satellites.

"The most obvious benefit of the sixth satellite in the constellation is the additional capacity that it provides,”Schavietello said in an Oct. 3 teleconference with reporters. "As you may know, when the government has a wideband communications need they have a choice between using commercial or a WGS-type systems. To the extent that the Air Force or the U.S. government has its own assets, that would potentially eliminate the need to buy commercial communications. The WGS vehicles provide a tremendous amount of capacity. Sometimes you hear that one WGS satellite provides more than 10 times the capacity than the current DSCS satellites. Having a sixth really adds to the capacity. It adds to the redundancy of the system to handle issues if they come up. You have more places on earth where you can put beams down and provide communications to the warfighter.”

Australia expects to finalize the arrangement through the signing of a government-to-government memorandum of understanding shortly after the 30-day U.S. Congressional notification period, the Australian Ministry of Defence said.

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