Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

NZ Defence shared satellite blasts off and will 'respond to attacks'

A multi-national military satellite for New Zealand and six other countries has blasted into space to increase communications capabilities to "prevent, protect against and respond to attacks."

Boeing said its satellite was launched into orbit at the weekend.

The WGS-9 satellite was funded through an agreement between the United States, Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and New Zealand. Australia will also use the satellite after funding an earlier model.

The New Zealand Defence Force will use satellite primarily to support personnel offshore and in New Zealand training.

A Defence Force spokesman said the total cost of the project for the NZDF was $83.2 million over 20 years, of which about half was New Zealand's contribution to the cost of the satellite production. The remaining spending will provide ground satellite terminals for NZDF units.

He added information from Boeing had used the term "attacks" very generically.

"The NZDF is not anticipating any direct attack/threat to New Zealand."

When New Zealand's participation in the project was announced in 2012, then Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said it would increase access to satellite broadband more than twenty-fold, with guaranteed access and at a fixed price, ensuring better value for money.

The NZDF currently purchases bandwidth on commercial satellites at spot prices, which can involve a premium of up to 100 percent depending on demand, and which can also limit availability of bandwidth.

Any unused capacity can be made available to other government agencies, Coleman said at the time.

Boeing said each partner country gained access to the capabilities provided by the full WGS system, which include flexible and secure communication transmissions on two frequencies.

"This unique international collaboration increases military interoperability and expands affordable high-data-rate communications for US and allied partners around the globe," said Rico Attanasio, executive director, Boeing department of defence/civil satellite programmes.

"WGS-9 is among the most capable military communication satellites on orbit today."

WGS-9 launched on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket. Boeing is on contract for 10 WGS satellites, the last of which is tentatively scheduled for launch in 2018.

The eighth, ninth and 10th WGS satellites carry nearly double the available bandwidth of earlier satellites in the series.

- NZ Herald

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