WGS-4 satellite

Air Force Launches New Military Communications Satellite

An unmanned rocket lit up the Florida night sky on January 19 as it launched a vital new communications satellite into orbit for the U.S. military, the first major American space launch of the year. The Delta 4 rocket roared spaceward from a Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch pad carrying the Wideband Global SATCOM 4 satellite, the latest addition to the military’s highest capacity communications system in history. Liftoff occurred on time at 7:38 p.m. EST (0038 Jan. 20 GMT). Built by Boeing, the $464 million WGS-4 satellite is the fourth in a growing constellation of high-capacity satellites that provide tactical communications to and between ground forces, as well as relay data and imagery from surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. The WGS system is the only U.S. military communications satellite network capable of providing simultaneous X and Ka band communications, and it offers point-to-point communication, broadcast and multicast services for troops, according to a mission description. The 13,200-pound (5,987-kilogram) WGS-4 satellite is equipped with solar arrays to generate power and relies on a xenon ion drive for propulsion. It in will fly in a geosynchrounous orbit about 22,369 miles (36,000 kilometers) above Earth to provide communications services for troops in the Middle East.