By Sharon Watkins Lang, SMDC/ARSTRAT Command HistorianApril 14, 2016
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- After six months of testing, the first Wideband Gapfiller Satellite, later renamed Wideband Global Satellite (WGS-1) was successfully activated. One day later, military satellite users in the West Pacific region transitioned from the Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS), B9 communications satellite to this new state of the art WGS system.
Launched, Oct. 10, 2007, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, WGS-1 marked the beginning of a new constellation that would greatly improve communications capabilities across the globe for customers ranging from the national command authorities and combatant commanders to Soldiers in the field. In fact, a single WGS satellite operates at 12 times the capacity of a legacy DSCS satellite. In other words, a single WGS can provide more satellite communications or SATCOM capacity than the entire DSCS constellation.
The DSCS system has been in operation since the 1960s with the current satellites launched in the 1980s and 1990s. The latest iterations carried a six-channel SHF transponded system that operated on a single channel transponder with a capability to transfer up to 200 Mbps. The data was transmitted via a wideband multi-beam and earth coverage receive antennas and two transmit multi-beam, gimbaled dish and two earth coverage antennas.
In comparison the WGS satellites provide two-way X-band and Ka-band communications and Ka band broadcast services. A significant advancement is the on-board cross banding capabilities that allow an X-band terminal to communicate with a Ka-band terminal. In addition, each satellite is "digitally channelized and transponded."
These combined capabilities are said to deliver "a quantum leap in communications capacity, connectivity and flexibility" sending data, photos and videos to wherever they are needed. In contrast to the DSCS then a WGS satellite provides a data transmission rate of 2.1 Gbps to 3.6 Gbps.
Meanwhile, DSCS B9 satellite continued to operate for three more years as a test asset before it was deactivated, Aug. 12, 2011, by the Air Force's 3rd Space Operations Squadron and the Army's 53rd Signal Battalion concluding an 18-year career.