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Space

Air Force, Boeing team up for early-orbit operations

by Staff Sgt. Don Branum
50th Space Wing Public Affairs


10/15/2007 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFPN)  -- Airmen with the 3rd Space Operations Squadron and Boeing Corporation contractors  took over early-orbit operations on Wideband Global SATCOM Satellite Vehicle 1 from a Boeing facility in El Segundo, Calif., Oct. 10, approximately 30 minutes after it launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

The teaming gives 3rd SOPS Airmen an opportunity to become acquainted with WGS during its initial stages, said Col. Clinton Crosier, the 50th Operations Group commander.

"This is a better way of doing business," Colonel Crosier said. "It won't be a cold handoff. When we do the handover we'll have a team that has hands-on experience working with the WGS satellite on orbit."

Boeing will transfer Satellite Control Authority to 3rd SOPS in about 90 days after completing a rigorous series of tests on WGS SV-1's systems.

SV-1's final orbit will be in the geosynchronous belt, approximately 23,000 miles above the Earth. Its orbit shortly after launch was highly elliptical, with a closest approach of less than 250 miles and an apogee of more than 36,000 miles. 

Boeing and 3rd SOPS will fire maneuvering thrusters on the satellite over the next two weeks to nudge it into a circular orbit, said Maj. Tracy Patton, a 3rd SOPS member.

Once the satellite is in its proper orbit, operators will test the satellite's functionality to ensure it suffered no damage through the vibration and G-forces of liftoff.

WGS SV-1 launched at 8:22 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time from Space Launch Complex 41 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. It the first in a planned constellation of six $300-million vehicles, each of which will have communications capabilities equal to 12 Defense Satellite Communications System-III satellites. WGS is the successor to DSCS-III, recapitalizing a fleet whose first satellite launched Oct. 30, 1982.

Airmen with 3rd SOPS will control the WGS platform, according to a ULA SV-1 fact sheet. Soldiers at four Army wideband satellite operations centers will conduct payload command and control.

The WGS SV-1 mission is the 11th flight of an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral AFS and extends Air Force Space Command's string of consecutive successful launches to 52.

The Air Force originally planned to deploy five WGS satellites but expanded the program to six through an agreement with the Australian Defence Force. The $707-million partnership encompasses the sixth satellite, associated ground infrastructure and upkeep, according to a report in the Oct. 4 Wall Street Journal. 



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