The U.S. Air Force is in discussion with a number of allied nations about possibly funding construction of the ninth Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) communications satellite in exchange for access to the constellation, Boeing officials said Sept. 9.

WGS prime contractor Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems of Seal Beach, Calif., in August was awarded a $182 million contract from the service to begin buying long-lead parts associated with the seventh spacecraft in the series. By the end of the year, Boeing expects to have a contract in place that fully funds WGS-7, partially funds WGS-8, and includes options for four additional clone spacecraft, Mark Spiwak, Boeing’s WGS program director, said during a media briefing.

The ninth satellite in the series may be funded by an international partner, though no firm deal is in place, said Ken Torok, Boeing’s vice president of navigation and communications systems. This would follow the unique 2007 arrangement in which Australia agreed to pay for construction of WGS-6 in exchange for access to the system. Air Force spokeswoman Peggy Hodge was unable to comment on any pending arrangement by press time.

Meanwhile, the first three WGS satellites are on orbit and meeting all requirements, Spiwak said. The fourth satellite in the series will be ready for launch by summer 2011 but depending on launch vehicle availability may not be launched until early 2012, he said.