The fourth Wideband Global Satcom military communications spacecraft is safely in its geostationary transfer orbit following a 7:38 p.m. EST launch from Space Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., Thursday.
The 7,600 lb. spacecraft, based on a Boeing 702 platform, was lifted into orbit on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket in a Medium-plus configuration. It was ULA’s first launch of the year and the Delta IV’s 18th.
WGS-4 is the first of the Block II configurations that includes a switchable radio frequency bypass system that is three times faster than the currently operating WGS satellites at transmitting airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance imagery data.
The spacecraft will take several weeks to reach its final geostationary parking orbit. As it is transferred, controllers at Boeing’s El Segundo, Calif., satellite headquarters will command deployment of its solar array and antenna.
When those essential tasks are completed, the controllers will begin a systems check-out, a process likely to take three months before the spacecraft can be formally handed over to the US Air Force.
Boeing now holds contracts for five additional Block II WGS spacecraft following the agreement announced Jan. 18 of an order for WGS-9. It is to serve Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and New Zealand.