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Boeing uses 3D printing to accelerate production of WGS-11+ satellite

More than a thousand parts of the US Space Force satellite for military communications are additively manufactured

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Boeing has begun building the latest version of the Wideband Global SATCOM satellite system, WGS-11+, using advanced techniques to effectively integrate the latest commercial technology while enabling a high-paced five-year schedule that will deliver years faster than similar clean-sheet designs. The satellite is used by the US Space Force for military communications.

“We’re moving at record-breaking speed to deliver the unmatched resilience, efficiency, and throughput WGS-11+ offers our warfighters,” said Col. Matt Spencer, Space Systems Command Geosynchronous Earth Orbit and Polar Division Senior Materiel Leader. “Boeing’s ability to rapidly in­­­­­tegrate the latest commercial technology into our infrastructure gives us a competitive edge on the battlefield.”

Boeing and the U.S. Space Force completed the system’s critical design review in late 2021, officially launching the program’s production phase. Leveraging additive manufacturing, rapid prototyping, agile development and other advanced techniques, Boeing has created cost and schedule benefits while boosting system performance.

“We’re printing more than a thousand parts for WGS-11+, giving us the capability to introduce customization in a way that improves system performance, without requiring extensive integration times or customized tooling,” said Troy Dawson, Boeing Government Satellite Systems vice president. “We understand how important speed is to the mission. That production speed translates to effectiveness against threats. As we continue to invest our technology and processes, we know that a similarly capable satellite could be delivered even faster.”

Boeing turns to 3D printing to accelerate the production of WGS-11+ satellite for US Space Force military communications
A rendering of the Wideband Global SATCOM satellite system.

WGS-11+ showcases an evolution in phased array technology. Based on Boeing’s advances on its commercial 702X software-defined satellite payload, it is capable of generating hundreds of electronically-steered beams simultaneously, providing users with more than twice the mission capability compared to satellites within the existing WGS fleet.

Like 702X, each individual beam is shapeable and can be uniquely tailored to any operation, enabling increased mission flexibility and responsiveness. Narrower beamwidths with dual-polarization unique to WGS-11+ help protect against jamming and interference while allowing greater frequency reuse.

When it joins the constellation of ten WGS satellites, WGS-11+ will substantially increase the throughput capacity of essential communication services for the U.S. government and its allies. It is scheduled for delivery in 2024.

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based 3dpbm. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites 3D Printing Media Network and Replicatore, as well as 3D Printing Business Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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