The U.S. Air Force has awarded Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems of Seal Beach, Calif., a $1 billion contract to build a seventh Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) communications satellite and to start buying parts for an eighth. The firm fixed-price contract modification, announced Sept. 2 by the Defense Department, also includes an option for a ninth WGS spacecraft.

Boeing began buying long-lead parts for a seventh WGS satellite under a $182 million contract awarded in August 2010. The first three Boeing-built WGS satellites were launched between October 2007 and December 2009. A fourth is slated to launch in early 2012 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop a Delta 4 rocket.