The Air Force authorized Boeing [BA] to produce and launch the eighth and ninth Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellites, according to a company statement.

The WGS-9 contract for $376.5 million was issued recently and the WGS-8 production option, which was authorized last month, was worth $296.1 million, a combined value of approximately $673 million. Both are part of the $1.09 billion contract modification announced by the service in September 2011.

Both WGS-8 and WGS-9 are part of the Block II family, WGS-4 through WGS-9. The initial Block I contract was issued in 2001 and the Block II contract was awarded in 2005, according to a Boeing spokeswoman.

The WGS mission is to provide broadband communications connectivity for the United States and its allies, including tactical communications for ground forces, relaying data and imagery from airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms.

WGS is the Defense Department’s highest-capacity communications satellite system and can process more than 3.6 gigabits per second of data, more than 10 times that of the previous system, the Defense Satellite Communications System. Operating at both X-band and Ka-band, the system will enable networks for tactical C4ISR and supports communication links throughout the allocated 500 MHz of X-band and one GHz of Ka-band spectrum.

Through frequency reuse and digital channelization, each WGS payload can exploit more than 4.8 GHz of usable communications bandwidth.

WGS satellites are built on the Boeing 702HP platform, which uses efficient xenon-ion propulsion capability, triple-junction gallium arsenide solar cells and deployable radiators with flexible heat pipes.

The Sept. 1 contract modification worth $1.09 billion provided funding to the existing Block II follow-on contract for full production, launch and on-orbit activation of the seventh WGS satellite and procurement of long-lead materials for the eighth satellite.

Boeing was awarded the initial WGS contract in January 2001 for the first three satellites, plus the associated ground-based command and control elements.