Sharing the Pipes

Australia will have access to 10 percent of the total communications bandwidth capacity provided by the Air Force’s first Wideband Global SATCOM satellite that is now on orbit and being prepared to assume operations, according to a USAF official. “Eventually they will share 16 percent of the entire constellation capability,” this official said, speaking on background with reporters on the Air Force’s Fiscal 2009 budget request for space. Australia joined the Air Force-led WGS program last November, providing enough funding essentially to allow USAF to buy an additional satellite, thereby expanding the planned constellation to six spacecraft. In exchange, Australian defense forces will be able to access the constellation. The first WGS satellite, launched last fall, resides in orbit over the Western Pacific. Once it is operational, which is expected to occur within the next several months, it “will be shared with the Australians,” the official said. WGS spacecraft two and three are scheduled for launch later this year. The WGS design is projected to operate for 19 years, seven years over the original projected life, the USAF official said. “WGS is a success story from a technical and an operational perspective, but it’s also a success story from an international relationship perspective,” he added.