Canada Officially Joins U.S. WGS Satellite Program

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PARIS — Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced Jan. 17 that Canada would be investing 337.3 million Canadian dollars ($330.3 million) to finance the construction of a Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) satellite to be part of the U.S. Air Force’s growing WGS constellation.

In return for the contract to build what will be the ninth WGS military communications satellite, planned for launch in 2017, prime contractor Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems of Seal Beach, Calif., will be required to provide work in Canada equivalent to Canada’s entire investment in the satellite.

At a press briefing in Ottawa, MacKay and Canadian Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino said investing in a WGS satellite alongside other nations provides Canada’s defense forces with secure, plentiful satellite bandwidth over the long term at less cost than what Canada would pay if it continued to purchase satellite communications capacity on the commercial market.

WGS satellites provide X- and Ka-band capacity from geostationary orbit.

Australia has already agreed to purchase a WGS satellite. In addition to Canada, four other nations — Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and New Zealand — have agreed to join the program.

The U.S. Air Force has said that with these new national contributions, and the likelihood that the U.S. Congress will finance one more WGS, the constellation is likely to count 10 spacecraft.

MacKay said the Canadian financing “is a one-time, fixed payment.”

A senior Canadian defense official, explaining the appeal of WGS in a Nov. 30 presentation to a military satellite communications conference in London, said forecasts are that Canadian forces would be spending 100 million Canadian dollars per year on commercial satellite capacity by 2022. Even this figure assumed that the bandwidth would be available in the regions where it was needed, an assumption that may be optimistic, he said.