The U.S. Air Force ordered an eighth Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) military communications satellite from Boeing and also tasked the company to study a hardware upgraded for the newer spacecraft in the series, the Pentagon said in separate contract announcements.

On Dec. 16, the Air Force awarded Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems of El Segundo, Calif., $296 million for full scale production and launch of the WGS 8. The total contract value — Boeing previously was authorized to order long-lead components for the satellite — is $354 million.

The satellite is part of the WGS Block 2 program that covers the seventh, eighth and ninth satellites in the series. The Block 2 satellites are being procured under a new, commercial-like operating model expected to save the government $100 million, the Air Force said in a press release Dec. 21.

Three WGS satellites are on-orbit currently. The fourth satellite, the first in the WGS Block 2 series, is at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., undergoing preparations for a scheduled Jan. 19 launch, Boeing spokeswoman Tiffany L. Pitts said in an emailed statement.

Meanwhile, the Air Force on Dec. 30  announced a $9.4 million contract for Boeing to study a “spacecraft modernization initiative digital channelizer” for the WGS Block 2 program. The study was expected to be completed Jan. 1.