Home' Army News : September 26th 2013 Contents Army September 26, 2013
Aussies in space race
Australian personnel deployed to the US are playing a key role managing global communications satellites
WO2 Andrew Hetherington
IN THE lead up to the launch
of the WGS-6 satellite aboard
a Delta IV rocket from Cape
Canaveral on August 7, a team of
16 dedicated and highly skilled
ADF personnel were both nervous
“Nervous because launches
very rarely go exactly as planned
and can be delayed by hours, days,
weeks or even months depending
on the issues,” said Wg-Cdr Patrick
Del Guidice, the senior Australian
officer on the team.
“Excited, as this was the sat-
ellite Australia funded and for
Australia it was a major mile-
stone in the project. In the end,
everything went exactly to plan
and the satellite was successfully
Referred to as Cooperative
Project Personnel (CPP) the ADF
members are working in the US
on Australia’s contribution to
the Wideband Global Satellite
Communications (WGS) Project.
The ADF personnel are embed-
ded in Colorado, Nebraska and
Hawaii. These positions are jointly
filled by Navy, Army, Air Force
and Defence Public Service mem-
bers as part of the Australian con-
“Australia’s commitment to the
project began in November 2007
when it signed a memorandum of
understanding with the US, mak-
ing Australia the first international
partner to this project with the US,”
Wg-Cdr Del Guidice said.
“Under the memorandum,
Australia funded the acquisition
and sustainment costs for satellite
number six, known as WGS-6
totalling approximately AUD$800
Essentially, Australia’s contri-
bution to the WGS constellation
provides Australia with access to
the global constellation of the first
six WGS satellites, globally distrib-
uted, until the memorandum ends
in September 2029.
The ADF can use the communi-
cations payload aboard these satel-
lites to allow deployed personnel to
communicate from the field to base
locations and back to Australia.
The WGS-6 satellite was
launched from Cape Canaveral
aboard a Delta IV rocket.
One of the Army’s five person-
nel working as part of the project
in the US is Cpl Michael Thomas.
He is a Signals Corps telecom-
munications systems operator and
has been working in Hawaii in
the US Army Space and Missile
Defense Command/Army Forces
Strategic Command, D Coy, 53rd
Signal Battalion (Control), since
January 2011 as a Wideband
“I was interested in this project
in 2009, after hearing positions
would be open to ADF personnel,”
Cpl Thomas said.
“I saw it as an opportunity to
be involved with one of the most
technologically advanced commu-
nications satellite systems available
to the US military and ADF and it
was a great chance to experience
an overseas posting.
“Although my previous postings
have prepared me well for the chal-
lenges of this role, the mission per-
formed at D Coy is very different
to anything I have done previously
in my career.”
In his job Cpl Thomas oper-
ates the communications systems
aboard different types of satellites.
“I’m responsible for main-
taining the health and welfare
of both US Defense Satellite
Communication System satellites
and the new generation WGS satel-
lites,” Cpl Thomas said.
“My job focuses on two main
areas; transmission control and
satellite payload monitoring and
control, with a strong emphasis on
supporting customers who use the
capabilities of the satellites.
“As a part of the US satellite
control community I am consist-
ently exposed to new systems,
technology and procedures, which
are not a part of daily operations
within the ADF.”
Living and working in Hawaii
has been a memorable experience
for Cpl Thomas.
“My wife and I live in the cen-
tre of the island of Oahu and it’s a
relaxed place to live, especially on
the north shore where the surf sea-
son brings some truly spectacular
waves,” Cpl Thomas said.
“The opportunity to work with
the US Army has been a terrific
experience as a whole and a great
chance to see how another army
goes about its business.”
For more on the WGS-6 satellite launch go
For more on the WG satellites, go to
To view video of the WGS-6 Delta IV
rocket launch go to http://www.youtube.
Space age: The Australian-funded WGS-6 satellite is prepared for shipment to the
Delta IV booster rocket (pictured inset left). Inset above, US Army Capt Becky Bort,
left, presents an award to Cpl Michael Thomas with Wg-Cdr Patrick Del Guidice.
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