Last week we announced a critical milestone had been reached for our 9-Series Defense Satellite Routers, DLC line cards and the Tactical Hub – they became WGS certified.
But what does that mean for our customer base? What does it mean for us as an organization? What does it mean for our products? What, exactly, does WGS certification entail?
We sat down with Sr. Manager of Product Management Tony Tran to get the details.
What does WGS Certification mean for iDirect Government?
It means a great deal.
Quick history: In the 1980s the Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) was launched and used through the 2000s. After being used for nearly two decades and with technological advancements, the military needed a more powerful, longer-lasting satellite constellation. Thus was born the Wideband Global SATCOM System, or WGS. This system is so powerful that a single WGS satellite has more capacity than all of the DSCS satellites in space.
WGS enhances and augments the existing DSCS satellite constellation, and it’s continuously being updated with newer technology. In fact, they just launched WGS 10 on March 15th to help our forces worldwide. When I say “our forces,” I’m including friendly forces – this is not just a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) asset. Other nations also use and fund the WGS satellite constellation.
Having the WGS certification shows our commitment to the U.S. DoD. First of all, WGS is their primary satellite constellation for communications, ranging from voice data to video and C4ISR missions as a whole. It’s also used for the Global Broadcast System (GBS), which is the government’s global broadcast system used to disseminate classified and unclassified information.
Speaking of GBS, our 9-Series product line perfectly complements the GBS infrastructure uses today. In addition to the encapsulation method utilized by the iDirect platform, the 9-Series product line also supports multi-protocol encapsulation (MPE) as used by GBS. Leaning forward, the government wants a platform that allow them to securely broadcast their content without concern of having sensitive information falling into the wrong hands. With all this in mind, we have not only designed the 9-Series to support MPE, but to also support one-way TRANSEC. This enables users to easily transition from the GBS as it is today to what it will be tomorrow. The fact that our WGS certified 9-Series can support the legacy and future of the GBS program makes our platform the go-to choice for the U.S. DoD and other nations utilizing the WGS constellation.
What does WGS certification mean for our customers and integrators?
Being WGS certified gives our customers the assurance that they are working with a platform that’s been thoroughly tested, vetted and has the authority to operate (ATO) on the WGS constellation. It’s been nearly two years in the making to get to this point. The reason it takes so long is because the WGS certification process is multi-faceted and broken into four phases.
Negotiations with the U.S. Army Strategic Command (ARSTRAT) begins with what is known as Phase Zero. During that phase, we go over our proposed test matrix showing how we will be testing our products to ensure they are compliant to access the WGS constellation.
Once that’s approved by ARSTRAT, we move on to Phase One. That involves all of our internal testing with our team here within iDirect Government. Some of these tests are quick, and some take an entire weekend. Along the way, we may find some areas of improvement. This gives us the opportunity to refine the product and make it better for the warfighter. This phase alone can take a few months to potentially a year.
Once all the internal testing is done, we generate a test report and submit it to ARSTRAT. They review our report to make sure we’ve checked the box for everything we promised to deliver. If approved, we enter into Phase Two and our report is released to another organization called Joint Satellite Enterprise Center (JSEC). They take our report and conduct their own check to ensure our test results matches to what is presented in our report. This can last anywhere from three to six months.
Once JSEC is done, they produce their own test report and hand it to ARSTRAT, beginning Phase Three. ARSTRAT reviews and grants a certification number to authorize the products and software can operate on the WGS constellation.
From a user standpoint, they will see the product line has received WGS certification and will allow them to use them on this constellation. Our integrators will appreciate that we’ve put a lot of time and work into this to get this far. It’s a fairly robust amount of testing and effort that goes into this.
Why is it important for us to get our products WGS certified? Could customers or integrators use our products if they weren’t?
Having our products WGS certified certainly is of importance to the military as illustrated above. However, this certification is also a great opportunity for our terminal integrators. With our products integrated into our partner’s terminals, it presents a huge value-add to their military customers – especially if they have a requirement to use the WGS constellation.