Boeing [BA] recently said it received a $1.09 billion contract modification from the Air Force adding funding to the existing Block II follow-on contract for full production, launch and on-orbit activation of the seventh Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite and procurement of long-lead materials for an eighth satellite.

The authorization also includes options for the full production, launch and on-orbit activation of satellites eight and nine. The additional orders are part of the WGS Block II follow-on contract awarded in August 2010.

“With three satellites in operation today, WGS is already making a huge difference for the warfighter,” said Craig Cooning, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems. “Satellites seven and eight will address the growing demand for high-data-rate services worldwide.”

The contract includes production, launch site activities, and initial orbital operations and checkout for each satellite. Boeing also is working with the Air Force on potential upgrades that would further increase the satellites’ capacity and operational flexibility.

WGS is the Department of Defense’s highest-capacity communications satellite system. The three satellites currently on orbit are providing more than 30 times the communications capacity of the prior Defense Satellite Communications System constellation.

WGS satellites are built on the proven Boeing 702HP platform, which uses a highly efficient xenon-ion propulsion capability. The communications payload has flexibility features that are important to the military, such as the ability to interconnect terminals that operate in different frequency bands and to reposition coverage beams based on evolving mission needs. WGS supports missions ranging from tactical communications to and between ground forces, to relaying data and imagery from airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms.