WASHINGTON — Boeing was awarded a $439.6 million contract by the U.S. Space Force to build a military communications satellite known as WGS-12.

The contract was announced March 1 by the Defense Department. 

WGS-12 will be the 12th satellite of the Wideband Global Satcom geostationary constellation that provides communications services to the United States and allies.

Boeing builds military satellites in El Segundo, California. According to the contract announcement, WGS-12 would be delivered in January 2029. 

WGS-11 still in production

Boeing has been the WGS prime contractor since 2001. The first satellite was launched in 2007. The company is still completing production of WGS-11 under a $605 million contract awarded in October 2019. Boeing said it plans to deliver the satellite in 2024.

Both WGS-11 and WGS-12 were funded by congressional earmarks. The Space Force did not request funding for a wideband satellite in the 2023 budget but Congress nevertheless added $442 million, an action reminiscent of the 2018 defense appropriations bill when Congress inserted $600 million for WGS-11.

Congress in the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act said it would block the procurement of WGS-12 until the Department of the Air Force confirmed that the same service could not be performed by commercial satellites. 

That confirmation came in a letter from the Department of the Air Force, asserting that WGS-12 meets specific needs that cannot be met by commercial alternatives, the Space Systems Command said.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...