WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force successfully launched its sixth Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) X- and Ka-band communications satellite at 8:29 p.m. Aug. 7.

WGS-6, built by Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems of El Segundo, Calif., launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. It marked the fourth WGS launch aboard a Delta 4.

The satellite, funded by the Australian military, successfully separated 40 minutes after liftoff. In exchange for its roughly $700 million investment, Australia’s military will have access to a proportional amount of bandwidth across the entire WGS constellation, eventually comprising 10 satellites.

WGS-6 is expected to be declared operational after several months of testing.

The launch marks the second WGS launch in three months — WGS-5 launched in May and is expected to be declared operational later this year. WGS-6 is the last of the upgraded Block 2 WGS satellites.

For Denver-based United Launch Alliance, whose Atlas and Delta rockets launch virtually all U.S. national security satellites, the mission marked the second of four planned during a nine-week period. The company launched a U.S. Navy communications satellite July 19 and is scheduled to loft a classified National Reconnaissance Office spacecraft Aug. 28, to be followed by the Air Force’s third Advanced Extremely High Frequency secure communications satellite Sept. 25.   

WGS-7, the first of the third block of WGS satellites, is expected to launch in mid-2015, according to Air Force’s budget documents.


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Mike Gruss is a senior staff writer for SpaceNews. He joined the publication in January 2013 to cover military space. Previously, he worked as a reporter and columnist for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. and The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Ind. He...