The U.S. Air Force is finalizing a deal with five nations to buy into the Wideband Global Satellite (WGS) wideband communications constellation as it prepares for the launch of the fourth satellite on Jan. 19.

A memorandum of agreement among five nations in addition to the U.S. should be signed by Jan. 17, says Dave Madden, who oversees the Air Force’s military satellite communications program office at Los Angeles AFB.

These nations will help to buy the 10th satellite and in return for cost sharing will be provided with a portion of the bandwidth from the WGS global constellation. The nations have not yet been revealed.

WGS spacecraft, which provide large-data-rate communications, are being added to the constellation as the Defense Satellite Communications System satellites age out; eight DSCS satellites continue to operate in orbit. WGS-4 is the first Block II satellite capable of offering three times the bandwidth of satellites 1-3. The fourth spacecraft also includes a bypass that allows for transmission of very large data files required for shuttling airborne intelligence data, such as Reaper video feeds, around the globe.

Three WGS satellites are now in orbit; three are being built under the guidance of prime contractor Boeing and three more are on contract.

Australia is already on board as a partner, having contributed to an earlier WGS purchase in exchange for access to bandwidth.

Meanwhile, the team is preparing for the upcoming launch, the second for WGS on board the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Medium Plus booster, with a 5-meter fairing and four strap-on solid-rocket motors.

Once launched, the Air Force plans to conduct four apogee and perigee burns each within the first two weeks as the satellite heads to geosynchronous orbit roughly 22,000 mi. above the Earth.

In early February, operators plan to deploy the antennas and solar arrays. Testing over the continental U.S. is slated to take place from mid-March to mid-April, after which the satellite will be turned over for operational use to Air Force Space Command.

The satellite will then be moved to its operational orbit over the Indian Ocean.