WASHINGTON — Boeing Satellite Systems will boost the capacity of two military communications satellites under a $111 million contract modification awarded by the U.S. Air Force, the Pentagon said in a July 2 contract announcement.

El Segundo, Calif.-based Boeing will install upgraded digital channelizers aboard the eighth and ninth Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) satellites under the contract. The upgraded hardware also will be installed on the 10th WGS satellite, which the Air Force is expected to order in July, according to Mark Spiwak, Boeing WGS program director.

In a written response to Space News questions, Spiwak said the new digital channelizers will boost capacity on the WGS-8 and -9 satellites by 30 percent. “With additional enhancements to the WGS satellite, including the addition of more beams and/or greater radio frequency transmit power, each satellite could provide greater than 80 percent more capacity by leveraging enhanced channelizer bandwidth which would otherwise be inaccessible,” he said.

The Air Force in December and January authorized Boeing to build the two satellites as part of the WGS Block 2 Follow On program that also includes the seventh spacecraft and is valued at $1.09 billion. The combined value of the WGS-8 and -9 contracts, not including the modification for the upgraded digital channelizers, is $731 million, according to Air Force figures.

Spiwak said the Block 2 Follow On contract provided savings that enabled the Air Force to invest in upgrades like the new channelizers, which are routing devices that enable satellites to use bandwidth efficiently. In announcing the WGS-8 contract in December, the Air Force said the Block 2 Follow On craft were being procured under a more commercial-like contract arrangement that would save the service $100 million. The service also said it had awarded Boeing a $9.4 million contract to study the addition of the new channelizers.

“Discussions with the customer in the future will focus on enhancements that are able to unlock additional bandwidth and capacity on WGS to realize more of the available bandwidth,” Spiwak said.

Four WGS satellites are on orbit, with the fifth and sixth satellites — these, along with WGS 4, are the initial Block 2 craft — slated to launch next year.

Warren Ferster is the Editor-in-Chief of SpaceNews and is responsible for all the news and editorial coverage in the weekly newspaper, the spacenews.com Web site and variety of specialty publications such as show dailies. He manages a staff of seven reporters...