[Techtaffy Newsdesk]

Boeing has received authorization from the U.S. Air Force to produce and launch the eighth and ninth Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellites. The WGS-9 authorization and the WGS-8 production option, which was authorized last month, have a combined value of $673 million and are part of the $1.09 billion contract modification announced by the Air Force in September 2011.

WGS-8 and -9 will join four other satellites that are part of the Block II series. Block II adds a switchable radio frequency bypass that enables the transmission of airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance imagery at data rates approximately three times greater than the rates available on Block I satellites.

WGS-9 is being funded through a cooperative agreement that the U.S. Air Force has forged with Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and New Zealand. This expands the WGS international partnership beyond WGS-6, which was funded by the Australian government in 2008.

WGS satellites are built on the  Boeing 702HP platform, which features xenon-ion propulsion, deployable thermal radiators, and advanced triple-junction gallium-arsenide solar arrays that enable high-capacity, flexible payloads.