February 2006 
Volume 04, Issue 9 
Integrated Defense Systems

Data bridge

2 satellite programs look to meet military's need for bandwidth


Fighter pilots have said, "speed is life." It follows that the speedy delivery of data equates with life—as well as with the success of the U.S. Department of Defense's transformation.

Two Boeing programs, the Wideband Gapfiller Satellite (WGS) and Transformational Satellite Communications Space Segment (TSAT SS), are developing satellites that will quickly disseminate large amounts of data. Their products are designed to facilitate the military's transformation to network-centric operations. They also demonstrate Boeing's leadership in the growing NCO market.

Today, the DoD and other agencies rely on costly commercial satellites to regularly supplement the limited bandwidth the current Defense Satellite Communications System constellation provides. As new platforms, applications and NCO concepts are employed, there's a growing demand for bandwidth.

As a high-capacity satellite communications system to support the warfighter with new technology and far greater capabilities, the WGS satellites now in production will address this critical bandwith shortfall. This includes two-way, point-to-point, multicast and broadcast communications that will support initial Communications On The Move for troops in the field.

Boeing is under contract with the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center for three satellites, plus associated ground-based control systems. The satellites are being built at the Boeing Satellite Development Center in El Segundo, Calif. WGS, based on the Boeing 702 satellite bus, has inherent growth capability to support future transformational communications requirements.

"A single WGS satellite provides a huge leap in capability over the current Defense Satellite Communications System satellites, with more throughput than the entire constellation currently on station," said Claire Leon, WGS program manager.

Boeing is aiming to complete the first satellite in December, and the Air Force is planning for a first launch in June 2007, added Leon.

For tomorrow's commanders, there will be even more demanding criteria for connectivity. TSAT SS will provide the solution with the throughput of a five-satellite constellation capable of handling data at up to 40 gigabytes per second. That translates into having the ability to process a reconnaissance photo in less than a second and instantly transmitting it. In contrast, the current Milstar Block III's processing of imagery or data can take up to two minutes.

"TSAT will give commanders the ability to react more quickly than ever, before an adversary even has time to think about what his next move is going to be," said John Fuller, vice president of Boeing Air Force Space Systems. "With this capability, we'll shorten or even prevent conflicts, limit collateral damage and save lives."

The Boeing TSAT SS team is one of two contractor teams working under a $500 million risk-reduction and system-definition study contract. This phase continues through 2007, when the government will select a single contractor to proceed with the acquisition and operation phase. Supported by a constellation of satellites in geosynchronous orbit, TSAT will provide the backbone of the DoD's high-bandwidth networked communications. Although dependent on current funding decisions, the first launch is now planned for the middle of the next decade.

"We have confidence in TSAT because we're heavily investing our upfront funding for technology risk reduction," said John Peterson, Boeing TSAT SS program manager. "This is a new and successful strategy that prepares us for the execution phase."

In addition to supporting full-up Communications On The Move services and protected strategic communications, TSAT will incorporate laser communications, as well as links to Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance platforms.

"No other space asset being developed even comes close to meeting these future requirements," Fuller said. "We need to do a better job of explaining the intrinsic value of this program. Everyone thought GPS was a game changer. Well, TSAT is revolutionary."



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