Sponsored By Viasat
18 Aug 20. Viasat Selected As a Top 30 Innovator in the U.S. Air Force AFWERX Joint All-Domain Command & Control Demonstration Event.
As Part of the Event, AFWERX Established a Contract Vehicle for Department of Defense Users to Immediately Gain Access to Developing Technologies, including those Demonstrated by Viasat
Viasat Inc. (NASDAQ: VSAT), a global communications company, announced today it was one of 30 industry teams competitively selected by the U.S. Air Force AFWERX program to virtually demonstrate new and emerging capabilities, including its advanced Hybrid Adaptive Network (HAN) satellite communications (SATCOM) capabilities in support of Joint All-Domain Command & Control (JADC2) efforts. The demonstration, which brought together senior leaders from across the Department of Defense (DoD), enabled Viasat to showcase its capability to provide an open multi-network, multi-orbit SATCOM enterprise that leverages commercial innovation to enhance resilience, performance and warfighter effectivity across a contested, multi-domain battlespace.
For the first time as part of this Air Force challenge event, AFWERX established a contract vehicle for DoD users to immediately gain access to developing technologies presented by the 30 selected companies. The AFWERX contract vehicle is open to interested government organizations to use until September 30, 2020.
“We were proud to be chosen by AFWERX to demonstrate automated SATCOM network switching based on warfighter priorities and threats. In fact, we conducted a ‘Live Fire’ demonstration of a layered, resilient communications architecture that seamlessly roamed across multiple satellite networks, operated over various frequency bands, waveforms and provided independent, diversified network options for tactical, secure, cross-domain command and control (C2) communications and fires,” said Ken Peterman, president, Government Systems, Viasat. “Our HAN architecture can advance DoD’s JADC2 efforts, providing shared situational awareness using a diverse, resilient communications system—across all modalities and missions around the globe. This proven capability is focused on enabling coalition interoperability to rapidly address adversary threats in increasingly congested, contested and competitive environments.”
About the Viasat Demonstration
Warfighters require a resilient communications architecture for JADC2 high-velocity, data-rich, net-centric operations. The Viasat HAN demonstration highlighted critical use cases including assured connectivity, enterprise situational awareness and seamless, intelligent roaming across commercial and government networks. By operating across multiple networks, orbits and frequency bands, Viasat’s HAN system is well-positioned to enable joint forces to efficiently communicate and share data from operators/sensors on the ground, in the air, at sea and in space—with synchronized effects to rapidly close the kill chain in contested environments. A customized, cloud-based portal provides the interface for commanders and operators to share situational awareness and command, control and communication (C3) data in machine time.
AFWERX was launched by the USAF in 2017 as a dual-purpose technology accelerator program that focuses on enhancing relationships with commercially viable companies with dual-purpose technologies that have both private sector and government applications.
20 Aug 20. New Cobham RF Filters Deliver Total Spectrum Control and Utmost Reliability for Demanding Space Applications.
Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions (CAES), a leading provider of mission critical electronic solutions, announced today that it has bolstered its RF Filter portfolio with the addition of new microwave and millimeterwave filter assemblies specifically designed for space applications. Combining CAES’ 40+ years space heritage with its proven manufacturing processes and high performance filter design expertise, these new assemblies surpass reliability standards and support harsh environment requirements of the space industry. Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions high performance RF Filter capability is characterized by high power handling, narrow and broad bandwidths, connectorized and surface mount packaging in frequency ranges up to 50 GHz and enables total spectrum control, further ensuring mission assurance.
“United States space customers are currently underserved by existing RF Filter providers. We intend to change that,” said Jeff Hassannia, Senior Vice President of Business Development, Strategy and Technology for Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions. “This new RF Filter capability draws on CAES’ extensive history in designing and manufacturing the highest performance RF Filters for airborne, missile and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) applications where size weight and power are at a premium. Customers can look to Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions for a reliable technology supplier capable of complex solutions for rigorous space applications.”
Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions offers a broad portfolio of RF Filters including lumped element, combline cavity, and printed filters, as well as multi-filter assemblies. These filters are characterized by low loss and high sensitivity with narrowband with low insertion loss, broadband with low loss at edges (< 1dB flatness), and rejection bandwidth no more than 20% greater than passband bandwidth. CAES RF Filters feature high power capability with greater than 5 Watts peak power and greater than 1 Watt average power. Filter designs can be optimized for low size and weight, with designs that are less than 0.15” in height and less than 10 grams in weight. CAES RF Filters feature phase matching and phase tracking capabilities to less than 2 degrees, group delay matching, and amplitude matching and tracking. They offer very narrowband capabilities of less than 3% 3 dB passband bandwidth, less than 10% break-in passband for notch filters. CAES RF Filters also feature industry leading low phase noise capability and are complemented by an extensive portfolio of microwave and millimeterwave technology such as digital receiver exciters, switch filter banks, up converters, down converters and synthesizers. For more information please visit: https://www.cobhamaes.com/spacefilter. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
19 Aug 20. New Space Force Is at Forefront of Technology. The Space Force can learn what adversaries are doing before any other nation knows because of the Defense Department’s exquisite intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, the mobilization assistant to the chief of space operations said.
“We can share information over our global communication networks because of the persistence and the global reach that we have,” Space Force Maj. Gen. Kimberly A. Crider said during a “Tech Up With Women” webinar yesterday.
Because space can offer so many advantages to the nation, the decision was made to focus on it as an independent entity that can work in concert with air, ground and maritime needs and provide complementary capabilities to U.S. national security leadership, she said.
“Space Force … is the latest and greatest thing that’s going on, absolutely, here at the Pentagon,” the general said. “But I would argue it’s the biggest thing that’s going on right now for our country in terms of the capability that we bring to bear as an independent service, to protect and defend all of the services that we depend upon every single day, coming from space.”
Space Force became a military service Dec. 20. “We have really been launching off like a rocket getting this service in place,” Crider said. The Space Force’s motto is “Semper Supra,” which means “always above,” she added.
The services rely on satellite communications, and the availability of those communications anywhere around the world is necessary, the general said. So the Space Force must be able to make those services reliable, resilient and secure for those who need them, Crider said. If missiles are being launched, she said, the United States must know where they’re going and must be able to protect any of its forces and assets that are in any domain.
Technology is changing fast, and there’s a lot of it, Crider said.
“There are so many areas where we apply technology, and all of our careers and all of our jobs are affected by technology,” she said. “So it’s really important, and we believe in the Space Force it’s very important to have a good, solid level of understanding of some of the basic concepts that are driving our technologies today.”
“Technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning are concepts that are important to understand. It’s also important to know when and how to apply them, how they’re being used today, and what it means to use artificial technology to help people do their jobs better and more effectively and to allow machines to do things that humans normally would do,” the general said. (Source: US DoD)
19 Aug 20. US Army network team sets timeline for satellite constellations. The U.S. Army’s tactical network program office expects to reap the full benefits of low-and medium-Earth orbit satellite constellations in the 2025-2027 time frame, the head of the office said Aug. 18.
Speaking on a webinar hosted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Brig. Gen. Rob Collins, program executive officer at Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications-Tactical, said the two constellations types offer “game-changing technologies” that will likely be fully mature and ready for soldier use in Capability Set ‘25 or ‘27, the two-year cycle of new network tools the service is fielding.
One of the connectivity benefits of the LEO and MEO constellations in the field, Collins said, is that they can allow for complex network functions and mission-support capabilities to remain in a safer place.
“We may be able to put those in an area in a more safe sanctuary and allow our war-fighting formations, our brigades and divisions to better focus on what their tactical mission is without having to concern themselves with the force protection of those areas,” the one-star general said at DARPA’s virtual Electronic Resurgence Initiative Summit.
The Army is interested in LEO and MEO satellite constellations because they can provide significantly more bandwidth and reduced latency. “It’s really all about having a resilient network architecture that takes advantage of all the layers that can be expeditionary,” Collins said.
LEO and MEO can also allow for smaller ground terminals, which will increase mobility for the soldier, he added.
PEO C3T is currently working on prototypes of new satellite capabilities in partnership with the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command. PEO C3T’s Project Manager Tactical Network division will run lab-based experimentation with new satellite terminals this summer to “exploit some of the commercial capabilities,” Collins said. The program office is also working with the CCDC’s Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate on creating multi-band satellite terminals.
5G technology will add an additional layer of network speed. Collins said the Army anticipates 5G technology has the “potential” to be incorporated into Capability Set ’25. But he warned that the Army operates in unique environments with rough terrain and foliage that can affect communications, and can not always rely on towers and relay stations.
“I think one of the things we’re going to have to do is how can we take and best employ some of this technology, how do we link it into our current environment and ensure that it’s mobile,” Collins said. “And then probably, importantly, to make sure how do we secure some of the endpoints associated with the technology. I think that’s really an area that we’ll be reaching out to industry, academia and others to see how we best incorporate that.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
19 Aug 20. SES Picks SpaceX to Launch Four Additional O3b mPOWER Satellites. SES’s next-generation MEO communications system to scale and deliver proven low-latency, high-performance connectivity services as of 2021. SES announced today that it has selected SpaceX as a launch partner to deliver the four newly-ordered O3b mPOWER spacecraft of its next-generation Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) communications system. Just like the initial seven O3b mPOWER satellites procured, these additional four satellites will be launched into space on board Falcon 9 rockets from Cape Canaveral. A total of four Falcon 9 rockets will be used to support the deployment of all O3b mPOWER satellites.
SES’s O3b mPOWER fully-funded communications system comprises 11 high-throughput and low-latency satellites as well as an automated and intelligence-powered ground infrastructure. Built by Boeing, each satellite will generate thousands of dynamic beams and can deliver connectivity services ranging from 50Mbps to multiple gigabits per second to telecommunications, maritime, aeronautical, and energy, as well as governments and institutions across the world. SES has previously announced Orange and Carnival Cruises its first O3b mPOWER customers. O3b mPOWER is SES’s next-generation MEO system. It is built on the proven track record of SES’s current O3b constellation of 20 MEO satellites. Today, the O3b system is delivering high-performance communications services to customers operating in nearly 50 countries.
SES and SpaceX disrupted the industry back in 2013 when SES became the first to launch a commercial geostationary (GEO) satellite with SpaceX, and later as the first ever payload on a flight-proven SpaceX rocket. Their next O3b mPOWER launch in 2021 will be another one for the record books as the revolutionary terabit-scale capabilities of SES’s O3b mPOWER communications system disrupt the industry again.
“SES’s selection of SpaceX to support launch of the full O3b mPOWER constellation is a testament to our deep partnership built over the past decade,” said SpaceX Vice President of Commercial Sales Tom Ochinero. “We look forward to working with SES to make history again through the successful deployment of this new system.”
“O3b mPOWER is the cornerstone of our multi-orbit, cloud-enabled, high-performance network that will serve our enterprise, mobility and government customers into the next decade, and we are merely a year away from its first launch,” said Steve Collar, CEO of SES. “We have a strong and long-standing partnership with SpaceX and we are excited to add the launches of additional O3b mPOWER satellites that will drive higher throughput, greater efficiency and substantially more bandwidth to our industry-leading network.” (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
19 Aug 20. Scottish Space Hub Sutherland Wins Final Approval. Ambitious plans to launch satellites into orbit from the north Highlands of Scotland have been approved by the area’s local authority. Development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) intends to create Space Hub Sutherland on land owned by Melness Crofters Estate on the A’ Mhòine peninsula, south of Tongue.
HIE had submitted plans in February this year, including an extensive environmental impact assessment. Following a period of public consultation, these were considered on 26 June by the Highland Council North Planning Applications Committee. Although the committee was minded to approve the application, the council was required to notify Scottish Ministers, as part of arrangements to ensure government overview of spaceport planning applications. On 3 August, the Scottish Government announced that ministers did not intend to intervene and the council was free to determine the outcome of HIE’s application, which it has now done. The decision means that small commercial satellites and launch vehicles designed and manufactured in Scotland could be taking off from Sutherland within the next few years.Up to 12 launches a year will be permitted from the spaceport, which will include a control centre, 2.5km of road and a launch pad, occupying a total of just over 10 acres of the 740-acre site. HIE has approved a budget of £17.3m to develop Space Hub Sutherland, including funding from the UK Space Agency and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. Planning approval is subject to a set of 34 conditions, including measures to ensure operations are carried out safely and strict protection measures are implemented and monitored to protect the natural environment.
Scottish Government Innovation Minister Ivan McKee said: “I very much welcome the decision of the Highland Council to approve the planning application for Space Hub Sutherland, which will support around 250 well-paid jobs in the Highlands and Islands, including 61 in Caithness and Sutherland. This is the first of Scotland’s spaceport projects to clear the planning process and it represents a significant step forward for both the project and Scotland’s aspiration to offer the full end to end capability for manufacturing and launching small satellites and analysing their data. The space sector has a key role to play in the fight against global climate change and this milestone has been achieved through the hard work of the Sutherland team in partnership with the local community, leading experts and public bodies.”
Graham Turnock, CEO, UK Space Agency said: “Growing our domestic launch capability will bring new jobs and investments to communities in all corners of the UK. Space Hub Sutherland is an integral part of these plans and today’s news strengthens our position as Europe’s leading destination for small satellite launches. The UK government is committed to minimising the environmental impact of spaceflight activities and is developing a National Space Strategy which recognises the unique contribution of satellite technology to our understanding of global issues like climate change.”
David Oxley, director of business growth with HIE, also welcomed the council’s decision. “The UK’s space ambitions present a wonderful opportunity for the Highlands and Islands,” he said. “A vertical launch spaceport is a key piece of the national jigsaw, along with the design and manufacture of satellites and launch vehicles, that will ensure Scotland can derive maximum economic benefits from this growing and exciting sector. Another important aspect is the role that satellites launched from Sutherland will play in gathering data that will help people around the world to understand and address the impacts of climate change. In developing our plans, we have always been very mindful of the environmental challenges presented by a project of this kind. Part of our ambition is to create the world’s most low-carbon space centre and the conditions applied to the planning approval will help us make that a reality. When all these factors are put together, that makes today’s decision a good result not just for the economy, but for the environment as well.” (Source: News Now/http://www.parabolicarc.com/)
18 Aug 20. Deploying a backup to GPS will protect the US and spur innovation. The Global Positioning System underpins almost every aspect of modern life. This invisible utility, beamed to us by a constellation of 32 satellites zipping around Earth 12,550 miles overhead, does much more than give us directions to the nearest pizza place. GPS also allows sectors like transportation, telecoms, emergency services, finance and more to function with breathtaking speed and efficiency.
But this space-age marvel has a low-tech Achilles’ heel that makes it vulnerable to natural and human-directed disruptions that could cripple key industries and businesses, threaten lives, and cost billions of dollars. The signal from a GPS satellite is unimaginably faint. Detecting it is like being in New York and seeing a 50-watt lightbulb in Perth, Australia. That makes GPS susceptible to many kinds of interference, including tall buildings, solar activity and use of adjacent electromagnetic spectrums, as has been proposed under the rollout of 5G telecommunications services.
GPS can also be easily jammed and spoofed. Such incidents are dramatically on the rise in recent years and are sometimes carried out by our geopolitical rivals. For instance, Russian and Chinese forces have disrupted U.S. military and commercial tanker operations in the Black Sea, South China Sea and elsewhere. What’s more, on July 23, U.S. Space Command revealed that it has evidence that Russia conducted a test of a new anti-satellite weapon. Should satellites be damaged or degraded, recovery would involve building and launching new ones — you can’t just walk up to them and make repairs.
The cost of failure could be astronomical. GPS is directly tied to at least $1.5trn of economic activity, and indirectly to another $6 trn. Fifteen of the 16 sectors of infrastructure the Department of Homeland Security designates as “critical” depend on GPS, and 13 would simply fail without it. Airliners and ships would lose precise navigational capabilities. Traffic lights would malfunction. Banks and financial markets would grind to a halt. The COVID-19 pandemic only underscores the urgency, with first responder networks critically reliant on GPS.
The need for a GPS backup has been acknowledged by the U.S. government as far back as 2001, and persists today. In late 2018, Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Ed Markey, D-Mass., jointly said that “establishing a reliable alternative timing system to GPS satellites is crucial to the national and economic security of the United States.” Thankfully, there is a proven solution that can be quickly rolled out as a co-primary and complementary capability for GPS: eLORAN.
Based on World War II-era technology, eLORAN uses internationally protected, low-band radio signals that are 3 million times more powerful than GPS and 99.999 percent reliable. LORAN, which stands for “long-range navigation,” was widely used in the United States before our network was shut down in 2010. The entire country could be covered by an existing but dormant network of 19 ground-based towers. The signals can penetrate buildings, tunnels and underground. They are virtually impossible to jam or disrupt due to their very low frequency and high power level. The eLORAN technology also adds a data channel that can carry encrypted commercial-user commands, emergency broadcast messages or even consumer services like a command to open your locked car door.
There is widespread agreement on the need for a GPS backup. President Donald Trump signed the National Timing Resilience and Security Act into law in 2018, mandating the creation of a GPS backup, and earlier this year he signed an executive order encouraging the expansion of position, navigation and timing infrastructure beyond GPS. The Senate Armed Services Committee recently signaled its desire for a GPS alternative by 2023. Yet not enough progress has been made toward addressing this critical vulnerability.
Now is the time to act. Including eLORAN in a stimulus or infrastructure package would finally give us the resilience to withstand an otherwise devastating GPS disruption. Deploying eLORAN in the U.S. is estimated to cost $400m, less than the price of developing, building and deploying a single GPS satellite. It can be built at virtually no cost to taxpayers through a private-public partnership directed by the 2018 law and similar to those that support other infrastructure, like the National Airspace System for air-traffic control. Revenue sharing would offset government usage fees and actually generate revenue for the U.S. Treasury over time.
Deploying eLORAN could set off a wave of innovation similar to that generated by the introduction of GPS 25 years ago. For instance, it could enable safer deployment of drones and speed up the rollout of 5G services.
GPS has been a tremendous gift to the world. But its vulnerabilities needlessly put our economy and safety at risk. We must not wait until disaster strikes to fix this issue. The eLORAN technology can be deployed quickly and at a fraction of the cost of other systems. It will provide resilience for key infrastructure. It will unleash innovation and create jobs. GPS is a marvelous but ethereal scaffolding upon which our entire economy hangs. The resilient, affordable, ground-based technology of eLORAN is the safety net we need. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
18 Aug 20. US interest in German space start-ups is not rocket science. Germany needs to do more to support its homegrown industry if it wants to retain talent. Isar Aerospace, a start-up that makes innovative micro-rocket launchers, is named after the river that flows through its home city of Munich. It’s an appropriate homage to the fact that the city has become Europe’s space start-up hub. But, as the business weekly Wirtschaftswoche reports, Isar Aerospace investors have been encouraging the company’s 28-year-old co-founder and chief investor, Daniel Metzler, to relocate his business to the US. Nasa funding and access to launch pads in Virginia have been mentioned. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out why the US is trying to snap up Germany’s cutting-edge space start-ups. Potentially, it is also a more damaging threat to US-German relations than President Donald Trump’s decision last month to pull nearly 12,000 US troops out of Germany. These are tantalising opportunities for German businesses. Even though Germany has venture capital and government funding (Isar Aerospace enjoys both), the US can offer more.
Not least since the US’s new Space Force received its first budget: a hefty $15.4bn. “Germany’s space start-ups are truly world-leading,” said Matthias Wachter, who leads defence, security and space at the Federation of Germany Industries, BDI. “Recently one of them received a collaboration offer from a Chinese firm, which the German government blocked. But many are also being offered opportunities in the US.” Since the creation of the Space Force in December as the sixth branch of the US military, American venture capitalists and government agencies have been recruiting space start-ups more aggressively. American entities have also shown interest in Germany’s HyImpulse and Mynaric, which has a US office. Morpheus Space, a Dresden-based propulsion start-up, has met with Nasa’s chief technology officer. In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital arm, is said to have stationed a talent-spotter in Stuttgart.
“The Americans want to be the best in space, and in cases where other countries’ firms are the best, they bring them to America,” Mr Wachter said. “For many companies the offer is not unattractive. The US space budget is so huge that countries like Germany can’t compete.” New Zealand’s Rocket Lab is now an American company — US incorporation is often required to bid for US government contracts. There is nothing underhand about attracting companies to move. Many governments have foreign investment departments focused on doing that. VCs can invest as they wish; Rocket Lab’s first US backers included Khosla Ventures in California’s Menlo Park. But at a time of already frayed transatlantic relations, US attempts to woo away Germany’s most promising start-ups in a vital sector can aggravate poor diplomacy at the government level. While the US troops that have been pulled out of Germany can be sent back any time, start-ups that have decamped across the Atlantic won’t return. That will weaken German national security and the economy. Innovations that start in the space and defence sectors often become civilian success stories: think of GPS, Teflon or the internet. But Silicon Valley VCs won’t stop wooing German start-ups simply to soothe political relations. And the US Air Force, Nasa and other government entities will keep courting the best talent, wherever it comes from. So what should Germany do? For one thing it needs to provide domestic support. State investment for a domestic spaceport would help so that German companies do not have to rely on slots in other European countries. It also has to focus on co-operation with other European and western nations. If Nato allies can operate a joint naval fleet, as Belgium and the Netherlands do, it should be possible to jointly collaboratively fund space start-ups. Those start-ups just might yield the next GPS technology. (Source: FT.com)
17 Aug 20. Kratos Targets Ground System ‘Revolution.’ “We think that p-LEO is a big deal. And there’s got to be a revolution that has to hit the ground segment, says Phil Carrai, president of Kratos’s space, training and cyber division.
As DoD and commercial industry scramble to develop small satellite constellations in Low Earth Orbit for everything from high-speed communications to near-real time Earth observation, Kratos is quietly working to solidify a central role providing the new ground systems required to make them work.
While there is enormous military and commercial interest in the proliferation of small LEO satellites, known as p-LEO, not nearly as much attention has been paid to the radically different ground-based infrastructure to support those constellations. But the necessary changes in ground architecture will be monumental, and extremely lucrative for those companies at the crest of that wave.
“We think that p-LEO is a big deal. And there’s got to be a revolution that has to hit the ground segment,” says Phil Carrai, president of Kratos’ space, training and cyber division. “We think this is kind of our play for the next many years. … We’ve been making some substantial investments in that, in the sense of taking what was analog and stovepiped and moving it into a digital, dynamic, cloud infrastructure.”
Kratos, headquartered in San Diego, is a mid-tier company with $750- to $800m in annual revenue, and is perhaps best known in the defense arena right now for its low-cost attritable drones. Its XQ-58A Valkyrie is one of the top contenders for the Air Force’s high-profile Skyborg program to build autonomous drones that can mate with piloted aircraft for a variety of missions; it also is providing an airframe, based on its Mako UTAP-22, as a subcontractor to Dynetics in DARPA’s Gremlins program to develop drone swarms.
But space-related work is the firm’s bread and butter. Kratos’ space, training and cyber Division is the company’s biggest, Carrai said, with a large, but often behind-the-scenes, footprint in both the military and commercial satellite communications markets.
Indeed, while Valkyrie’s role in the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), which is developing new technologies to support command and control of future all-domain operations, has been well documented, Kratos space-related comms systems and ground equipment are actually playing a bigger part as subsystems within many other company’s offerings, company officials explained in a teleconference with Breaking D.
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“Our space portfolio really is all about communications and the ground segment, if you will, so that’s been our heritage,” Carrai said. “Probably 90 percent of US satellite missions use our technology in one form or fashion. So, we are rather unique in the sense that we can claim the US Air Force and SMC [Space and Missile Systems Center] as one of our largest customers, and, probably in our top 10 or top five, Intelsat and SES are also very large customers.”
The advent of 5G mobile telecommunications networks, and its promise of hyper-connectivity through the Internet of Things including from space, has mesmerized DoD and the Intelligence Community, as well as industry. The chief benefit of tying together satcom and wireless and terrestrial networks, for both national security and commercial communications, is expanded reach to hard-to-access areas. For example, satellite signals have trouble penetrating areas like ‘urban canyons’; laying fiber and erecting cell-towers in rural and harsh terrain such as mountainous regions is very costly if not impossible, but satellite communications is relatively simple.
The challenge is integrating currently incompatible (in more ways than one) and heavily stovepiped networks in a seamless fashion that allows near-instantaneous roaming among them. That is why the ground system issue is so important.
“We think that there’s a substantial change that needs to take place from the ground perspective,” Carrai said. Not only will there need to be “way more sites” to connect to fast-moving LEO satellites due to the simple laws of physics, but satellite ground stations will need to be configured more like terrestrial communications nodes with machine-to-machine operations ensuring the best link to any one satellite at a given place or time.
Chris Badgett, Kratos VP for Technology, explained that this kind of “dynamic resource allocation or that dynamic situational awareness” is particularly important to military users in order to provide jam-proof communications. In essence, this would allow a military radio to ‘jump’ from one frequency being jammed to another that is open. Today, if ‘changing the channel’ is possible, it is up to a solider or sailor or Marine to figure that out and manually flip switches. The ultimate goal is to automate that frequency and network ‘hopping’ capability so that users don’t even notice that it’s being done.
The mess that is the world of DoD satcom terminals is a long-standing sore-thumb for operators, particularly in the Army. As Breaking D readers know, DoD currently maintains 17,000 terminals with “approximately 135 different designs,” as the Government Accountability office found. Those terminals operate across diverse platforms—such as ships, backpacks, vehicles and aircraft — all with differing system requirements, so that for the most part each terminal system (i.e. each type of radio) is tied to only one satellite network and one type of platform.
And while fixing the current problem is already a Herculean task, it could be a show-stopper to Dod’s vision of future all-domain operations, linking sensors and shooters provided by all the services together via a Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) network.
“The major obstacle that we have from a ground system standpoint is the current ground architectures have all been designed and developed in a very stove-piped and mission-specific sense. And so each ground system was designed for the mission that it was supporting,” said Frank Backes, senior VP for Kratos Space Federal Solutions. “Where we’re going now with a joint, or combined, capability is the integration of those ground systems. And therein lies the complexity.
“How do you take a legacy-based architecture that was very stovepipe designed and integrate it together into a common system that gives you enterprise-wide control of the infrastructure, and also gives you the awareness of all the systems? It’s very easy to become overwhelmed in the information that a combined system provides,” Backe added.
As Breaking D readers know, sorting out those answers is what Gen. Jay Raymond, head of the Space Force, set out to do with his Vision for Enterprise Satellite Communications (SATCOM). That is aimed at creating a seamless network of military and commercial communications satellites in all orbits, accessible to troops, vehicles, ships and aircraft via ground terminals and mobile receivers that would automatically “hop” from one satellite network to another.
Carrai said Kratos believes that ultimately the “current analog stovepipe infrastructure that exists today” must simply be replaced. What is needed for integrated satcom is “a roaming modem or a roaming terminal,” and the ability to integrate satellite-provided imagery into the network, a “kind of a virtual antenna.”
“If you don’t have that capability, you’re not going to be resilient, it’s going to cost a lot of money, and you’re going to create a huge exposure because everybody’s going to know what antennas are used for what purpose,” he added.
All that said, Carrai opined that partly because of push from the Space Force, the stovepipe problem with milsatcom networks is beginning to change. “It’s still a struggle,” he said, because “there’s a lot of drive from the spacecraft manufacturers to link the ground system with it. You know, that’s what makes it a multibillion dollar system.”
In addition, he said, the scramble by commercial satcom operators to get on the 5G bandwagon is forcing them to figure out how to open up proprietary networks. “Commercial operators all see that 5G and data is their future, not broadcast, he said. “The commercial operators are going to lead if not the defense side because they have to interoperate with the telecom operators if they’re going to survive.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense)
18 Aug 20. US, UK form coalition to share technical foundation for space operations. The US Space Force reached an important milestone by recently signing an agreement to allow sharing of the Standardised Astrodynamics Algorithm Library with the Ministry of Defence of the UK.
The UK was the first international partner to join US Space Command’s Operation OLYMPIC DEFENDER and is the first to receive access to the SAAL, though USSF is currently working with other partner nations to expand that list.
Operation OLYMPIC DEFENDER is a key multinational effort intended to optimise space operations, improve mission assurance, enhance resilience, and synchronise US efforts with its allies.
The synchronisation and sharing of capabilities under OOD enhances allied space-faring nations’ ability to see the space environment with clarity, navigate with accuracy, and streamline multinational operations across the globe.
Recently, as part of a larger effort to improve space domain awareness, the Secretary of the Air Force’s International Affairs Office, USSPACECOM and USSF recognised a framework allowing OOD coalition partners to receive the SAAL. This collaboration is part of a continuing effort to enable integrated operations with OOD partners.
Major General DeAnna Burt, USSF director of Operations and Communications explained, “Aggressive actions in space must be deterred through a multinational, co-ordinated effort, allowing for the defense and protection or our collective capabilities.”
The USSF-owned SAAL is the technical foundation for mission systems utilised in US space operations centres. The SAAL library is USSF’s investment in the study of orbital physics and algorithms to help predict the locations and trajectories of satellites and objects in orbit.
“Sharing the SAAL with our coalition partners enables greater co-operation and co-ordination between the US and our allies,” Maj Gen Burt explained.
Providing the UK with access to the SAAL allows the partner nations to better collaborate in the space domain.
The SAAL will increase the ability of the UK’s Space Operations Centre to collaborate with the USSF and will provide the best available algorithms to interpret, predict and integrate data that the 18th Space Control Squadron at Vandenberg Air Force Base is already sharing with the UK’s Ministry of Defence.
Former Rear Admiral Marcus Hitchcock, who recently retired after serving as USSPACECOM Director of Strategy, Plans and Policy, said, “Today’s partnerships are vital in the contested space environment and strengthen our shared national space security requirements and complicate potential adversary decision making.”
In addition to OOD and the SAAL, data sharing agreements also demonstrate the growing importance of safety and security in the space domain to all responsible, space-faring nations. (Source: Space Connect)
18 Aug 20. Australia’s space activities are poised for unprecedented expansion, but are our regulators ready? In the face of a global pandemic, there is one sector providing a lot more than just a glimmer of hope, that is the nation’s burgeoning space industry, explains Equatorial Launch Australia chief executive Carley Scott.
The burgeoning space sector presents unprecedented opportunities to ignite an economic recovery right now, and enhance the ability for target industries to deliver sustainable, diverse and accessible economic growth in Australia, longer term.
The key to unlocking this growth is identified in the Australian Space Agency’s (ASA) Strategy, which highlights access to space (launch) as the nation looks to play an increasing role in the forecast US$1trn global space market by 2040.
The ASA is not alone in this focus. An independent report by Euroconsult for Austrade (2019) predicted that the Australian launch market will be worth US$970m over the 10-year period to 2033, further highlighting the opportunity for commercial space launch from Australia.
Bringing this future opportunity into perspective, the near-term prospect of commercial launch from Australian soil is very real. The Australian commercial launch sector is ready to engage, and already signing big customers.
In 2019, Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA) secured a world-first contract with NASA, thrusting Australian commercial launch into global headlines. The launch to space of NASA’s rockets is scheduled from the Northern Territory site in 2021.
ELA has made significant regulatory progress with environmental approval and development approvals in place to support more than 20 commercial agreements for the site going forward.
Detailed development designs are complete, and a team of 13 construction workers including 10 Yolngu First Nations space sector employees are laying the foundation for launch and the future of suborbital and orbital activity from the site.
Building on this momentum, Southern Launch has also announced plans for two launch sites in South Australia, with orbital launch from the Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex, and suborbital launch at the Koonibba Test Range.
Commercial suborbital launches are on schedule to start at Koonibba in 2020 with orbital launch contracted to begin from Q2 2021 from Whalers Way. As a further indication of market demand, over 10 other defence and commercial customers from Australia and abroad have signed agreements with Southern Launch to access their launch sites.
Not to be outdone, the Queensland government has announced plans to investigate Abbot Point as a future launch site that could support the growth of 6,000 space sector jobs in the state.
Understandably, government more broadly is also showing interest in economic figures as launch customers express strong interest in moving their manufacture and assembly operations to Australia.
This move is driven by a desire to optimise costs and reduce logistics and supply chain distances, and results in the resurgence of Australia’s high-tech manufacturing base, potentially worth billions of dollars, and thousands of jobs to the nation.
These new commercial activities build on a history of launch in Australia. Woomera undertaking defence work from South Australia for decades, and Black Sky Aerospace delivering Australia’s first successful commercial payload rocket launch near Goondiwindi in Queensland during 2018, with support from the Northern Territory government.
A strong demonstration of the cross-state collaboration that helps industry grow.
With so much happening around Australia, the next question is generally ‘who will use these sites going forward?’ Which, to those working in the field, may seem self-evident.
In addition to the potentially conservative Euroconsult report, the Australian government’s Force Structure Plan 2020 provides a purely sovereign perspective with up to $6.9bn of space domain investment dedicated to satellite communications over the coming 10 years, much of which may be absorbed by the local launch market.
Inovor Technologies is a world-leading supplier of next-generation small satellite technology, providing turnkey solutions for commercial, government and research clients wanting missions flown in space. Matt Tetlow, CEO of Inovor Technologies, said, “We are building satellites in Australia. Launch from Australia will close the loop and offer a complete sovereign space capability for Australia. This will also make our space industry more competitive globally.”
CEO of Black Sky Aerospace Blake Nikolic said, “Interest in Australian launch has dramatically increased in the last decade. It is driving strong demand for Australian made rockets, to service local and international payloads.”
Following successful engine tests, CEO of Gilmour Space Technologies, Adam Gilmour, identifies ongoing demand for Australian launch vehicles and sites through his discussions with signed and potential customers. Gilmour said that his “estimate of the global launch market, for small satellites alone, will be US$5bn by 2025” and “there is no reason that we (Australia) couldn’t get 20 per cent of that.”
Based in the ACT, Skykraft specialises in the conceptualisation, design and manufacture of small satellite constellations for the delivery of space-based global services. It is actively developing a small satellite constellation for space-based global air traffic management systems.
James Prior, managing directo, said, “The developmental cycle along with the full constellation roll-out will require multiple launches, which will be more efficient if we can access local and cost-effective launch services.”
With industry activity, government forecasts and national strategic goals in mind, perhaps the question should be less about the demand for launch from Australia, and more ‘are regulators positioned to facilitate this growth?’
All eyes are now on the Australian Space Agency, which had worked hard to review the Space (Launches and Returns) Act 2018 and amend legislative instruments (rules) that guide the approval of industry launch permits.
With a number of launch sites identified, market opportunities evidenced, and significant contracts announced in 2019, industry and politicians now look to the ASA for announcements relating to granted approvals.
This is a critical market indicator that the jobs and economic growth made possible by industry are being enabled by regulation as planned.
Growth, either through domestic or international investment as equity or launch contracts, must see a show of support from the Australian federal government. Put simply, growth in the space industry requires two core ingredients: financial project commitments that underpin the launch industry, which are already being demonstrated, and approval of launch permits that acknowledge the maturity and opportunity presented by the sector.
As CEO of ELA, Scott oversees a skilled team who have secured launch contracts. She also emphasises how important launch approvals are, saying, “ELA has attracted significant investment to deliver space launch for recognised customers, we are at a critical juncture now where regulatory efficiency is certainly in the spotlight.”
Damp echoed that sentiment, saying, “The launch sector has had good conversations with the agency, and are working hard to support positive decisions. Timing of application decisions is really important for all of us now.”
Launch approval costs are also in focus for industry. Gilmour said, “The agency’s announcement about a delay on a cost recovery model was a welcomed start. We have to remain cost competitive, and the approach by regulators will play an important role here.”
If a cost recovery model is introduced, Australia will become the first OECD nation to apply an equivalent tax on launch operations and potentially stifling an embryonic industry.
Industry representative body the Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA) has been engaging with industry and the ASA on launch.
Deputy chair of the SIAA, Tim Parsons, said, “Launch is a significant element within our overall industry growth setting.
“It drives enhanced strategic sovereign capability and builds efficient pathways for a broad spectrum of businesses, research and government entities to grow. We will continue to advocate strongly for a setting that promotes safety, efficiency, and industry opportunities going forward.”
As the nation looks to rebound from a global pandemic, strengthen international collaboration, and position the economy for exciting long-term growth, Australian launch will continue to be a hot topic for politicians and industry alike.
It is a critical area ripe for the agency to activate, and an enduring beacon for the dynamic economic opportunities that the space sector can deliver to the Australian economy for years to come. (Source: Space Connect)
18 Aug 20. Airbus to build BADR-8 satellite for Arabsat, with optical communications payload TELEO. New multi-mission satellite to deliver broadcast, broadband and telecommunications services over Europe, Middle East, Africa and central Asia
TELEO payload for new generation optical communications
Eighth Eurostar satellite for Arabsat and first Eurostar Neo. Airbus has been contracted by Arabsat, one of the world’s top satellite operators, to build BADR-8, their new generation telecommunications satellite. BADR-8 will replace and increase Arabsat’s capacity and augment its core business at the BADR hotspot 26°E.
The BADR-8 satellite will be based on the-state-of-the-art Airbus Eurostar Neo electric orbit raising platform giving access to a wide range of launchers.
BADR-8 will also include the innovative Airbus developed TELEO optical communications payload demonstrator. This payload will enable very high capacity analogue optical feeder link communications, as part of the development by Airbus of a new generation of optical communications technology in space to be integrated in its future commercial products, which is highly robust against jamming.
Jean-Marc Nasr, Head of Space Systems, said: “This important contract with our long-standing customer Arabsat has a special significance for Airbus Defence and Space. It is the first seventh-generation Arabsat satellite and the first Eurostar Neo satellite we are building for Arabsat after six previous Eurostar satellites. BADR-8 incorporates the best of our expertise and technologies, including a very innovative optical communications hosted payload. This further strengthens our continuing strategic partnership with the Arab Satellite Communications Organisation, which has been connecting people by satellite across the Middle East and the world for more than 40 years.”
Khalid Balkheyour, President and CEO of Arabsat said “We are delighted to sign this contract with our long term partner Airbus. It marks another milestone in our objectives to provide customers with premium satellite technology with the highest level of performance, and to expand reliability and service security. BADR-8 will be joining our Badr-network at Arabsat 26°E hotspot, expanding our service over EMEA region.”
The satellite is scheduled for launch in 2023 and its electric propulsion system will enable it to reach geostationary orbit in four to five months, depending on the type of launcher used. It has been designed to remain in service in orbit for more than 15 years. The satellite will have a launch mass of around 4.5 tonnes and power of 17 kW.
This new contract reinforces Airbus Defence and Space’s position as the world’s number one in electric propulsion satellites, with three full electric satellites operational in orbit and 15 additional full electric high-capacity telecommunications satellites under construction.
15 Aug 20. Triple Mission Success for Ariane 5.
- the Galaxy 30, Mev-2 and BSAT-4B Satellites Reach Geostationary Transfer Orbit
Arianespace’s fifth successful mission of 2020 orbited two telecommunications satellites and one satellite servicing vehicle for operators Intelsat, B-SAT and Northrop Grumman.
With this launch for two of its most loyal customers, as well as a new operator, Arianespace demonstrates the reliability and competitiveness of its launch service solutions, as well as the excellence of its long-established customer relationships.
On Saturday, August 15 at 22:04 UTC, Ariane 5 Flight VA253 was successfully performed from the Guiana Space Center, orbiting two satellites produced by Northrop Grumman: Galaxy 30 for Intelsat, and MEV-2 for SpaceLogistics LLC, a 100% subsidiary of Northrop Grumman; along with BSAT-4b, built by Maxar Technologies for the Japanese operator B-SAT.
“Arianespace is delighted to have served two loyal customers – Intelsat and B-SAT – as well as Northrop Grumman’s subsidiary, SpaceLogistics LLC,” declared Stéphane Israël, the Chief Executive Officer of Arianespace. “As part of this mission, three satellites were deployed by the most powerful Ariane 5 ever launched, thus demonstrating the competitiveness of our launch solutions and our capability for continuous innovation.”
The Galaxy 30 UHD video distribution/broadcast and broadband satellite, built for global network operator Intelsat, will cover North America.
BSAT-4b will be used for Ultra-High-Definition (UHD, 4K and 8K) direct-to-home television broadcasting across Japan, in conjunction with its twin, BSAT-4a, launched by Arianespace in 2017.
The Arianespace relationship with satellite operators Intelsat and B-SAT has continued for several decades, and has grown stronger over time. Since 1983 – the date of the first mission for Intelsat – Arianespace has launched 61 satellites on behalf of this global operator. For B-SAT, the Japanese operator has entrusted Arianespace with the launch of its entire fleet – a total of 10 satellites.
Flight VA253’s third passenger, the Mission Extension Vehicle-2 (MEV-2), is a satellite servicing vehicle designed to dock with satellites in orbit. It will provide life extension services. MEV-2’s first customer will be the Intelsat 10-02 satellite, which has been in service in geostationary orbit since 2004 and will have its operational life extended by five years.
The triple-payload launch performed with Flight VA253 to orbit two telecommunications satellites and a servicing spacecraft is a first for Ariane 5.
Another important point: Flight VA253 utilized the Ariane 5 heavy-lift launcher, developed and produced by ArianeGroup, which has increased its payload capacity by 85 kg. for this flight with the introduction of a new vehicle equipment bay (VEB) – bringing total capacity for the satellite payloads to 10,200 kg. on missions to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).
This Ariane 5 launcher is thereby the most powerful ever operated by Arianespace, marking the culmination of the continuous improvement program for Ariane 5’s performance and competitiveness that was implemented in 2016 by ArianeGroup for the benefit of Arianespace. It has provided a performance gain 300 kg., which continues to be available for customers on Ariane 5 missions planned until the end of the launcher’s operation.
The Ariane 5 launcher is a joint European government-industry program. Arianespace is responsible for marketing and operating Ariane 5 launches from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, with support from teams of the French space agency (CNES) and the European Space Agency (ESA) – which is responsible for the Ariane programs. All industrial activities relating to Ariane 5 are managed by ArianeGroup. This includes the equipment and structures, the manufacturing of engines, integration of the various stages, followed by integration of the complete launcher in French Guiana before its delivery to Arianespace for liftoff. (Source: ASD Network)
13 Aug 20. Collins Aerospace Bringing New SATCOM Capabilities to Aviation Through the Iridium Certus Service.
- Testing marks the first successful Iridium Certus low-gain antenna transmission to an orbiting satellite in the aviation market segment
- Collins Aerospace’s newest SATCOM transceiver to be ready by 2022
Collins Aerospace Systems has reached a milestone in the development of its higher bandwidth Iridium Certus airborne satellite communications (SATCOM) system. Recently, Collins Aerospace was able to successfully connect and transmit data to an orbiting Iridium® satellite using the Iridium Certus service. The feat was accomplished using Collins Aerospace’s new Active Low Gain Antenna (ALGA) – making it the first successful airborne equipment transmission of this type over the upgraded Iridium constellation’s L-band broadband service. Collins Aerospace Systems is a Raytheon Technologies business (RTX).
“This significant achievement marks our progress in bringing our customers an even faster, seamless SATCOM experience,” said Nate Boelkins, vice president and general manager for Commercial Avionics for Collins Aerospace. “Today’s aircraft operators are looking for reliable, secure data interaction and this product will help ensure aircraft operators receive the uninterrupted and secure data feeds they need to operate most efficiently.”
Collins Aerospace’s latest SATCOM solution is currently in development and will be available to operators in 2022. Collins will provide all of the airborne hardware for the new system, including the Satcom Data Unit (SDU), SDU Configuration Module (SCM) and the antenna. Depending on the operator’s bandwidth requirements, either a low gain or high gain antenna can be included, providing L-band bandwidth to 176 kilobits per second (kbps) or 704 kbps, respectively. (Source: ASD Network)
11 Aug 20. Agreement Expansion Between Ovzon + Intelsat. Ovzon and Intelsat have entered into a four-year agreement where Intelsat will provide service to Ovzon via three powerful steerable beams on the Intelsat 39 (IS-39) and Intelsat 37 (IS-37) satellites — this agreement replaces and expands the current agreement for capacity on IS-39.
The agreement enhances Ovzon’s offerings with additional capacity and expanded coverage and reach. Combining the power, resiliency, and flexibility of Intelsat’s steerable beams with Ovzon’s managed service and ultra-small terminals will provide unprecedented high throughput to small end-user terminals that are used by teams or large headquarters conducting disaster response, defense operations, and other mission-critical activities requiring unfettered access to information at the tactical edge.
Ovzon’s current service offering, through leased capacity, will be significantly expanded with the launch of the new satellite, Ovzon 3, in 2021. Ovzon 3 will provide enhanced performance and functionality and is an important step to further revolutionize mobile broadband by satellite, offering the highest bandwidth with the smallest terminals.
Ovzon 3 is the first of a number of satellites planned for Ovzon’s high-end, global service.
“This agreement with Intelsat plays an important role in enabling Ovzon to serve customers with global requirements for high-bandwidth services, paving the way for our coming Ovzon 3 capability. It also strengthens our partnership with Intelsat to the benefit of both companies,” said Magnus René, CEO of Ovzon.
“The combination of Ovzon’s high-speed service on ultra-small terminals and Intelsat’s innovative steerable beam technology creates a powerful innovation in connectivity. Our partnership with Ovzon is an important step toward empowering remote users with the communications innovations they need,” added Samer Halawi, Chief Commercial Officer of Intelsat. (Source: Satnews)
11 Aug 20. Accion’s TILE Ion Electrospray Propulsion Tech Earns AFWERX Contract. Accion Systems has been awarded a follow-on Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract through AFWERX, in partnership with Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), and the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN).
The award recognizes the successful completion of the Phase I SBIR contact earlier this year and exciting promise for Accion’s TILE ion electrospray propulsion for use in national security missions.
AFRL and AFWERX have partnered to streamline the Small Business Innovation Research process in an attempt to speed up the experience, broaden the pool of potential applicants and decrease bureaucratic overhead. Beginning in SBIR 18.2, and now in 20.R, the Air Force has begun offering ‘Special’ SBIR topics that are faster, leaner, and open to a broader range of innovations.
Accion Systems has developed a unique in-space propulsion system, based on a postage stamp-sized thruster chip, that is scalable from nanosatellites to larger satellites. These engines help satellites perform mission-critical orbital maneuvers.
Unlike other ion engines, Accion’s thrust-producing ions are supplied from ionic liquid propellant — a safe, non-toxic liquid salt. This novel source of ions allows Accion to avoid the use of large ionization chambers, pressurized tanks, bulky valves, and external cathodes, significantly reducing its propulsion systems’ size without sacrificing performance, power or reliability.
“We are thrilled that our contract with AFRL continues to expand beyond the initial scope of our partnership,” said Dr. Natalya Bailey, CTO of Accion Systems. “This Phase II contract accelerates our path towards commercialization, bringing the concept of powerful, efficient and less expensive space exploration to reality.”
“AFRL is excited to participate with Accion in the AFWERX program to explore the speed at which Accion can deliver technology solutions to the Air Force,” said Capt. Karson Roberts, Program Manager at AFRL’s In-Space Propulsion Branch. “This technology will be greatly beneficial in enhancing on-orbit capabilities for the DoD.” (Source: Satnews)
13 Aug 20. High speed communications for government aircraft: Interview with Intelsat General’s Robert McCord. Intelsat is a global leader in communications satellite services, providing broadband connectivity, video broadcasting, secure satellite communications and mobility services to thousands of organisations through its layered network of more than 50 satellites worldwide.
The company’s Senior Manager for Market Development, Robert McCord, spoke to Air Force Technology about FlexAir, Intelsat General’s managed service providing high data-rate connectivity for government aircraft.
Q: How did FlexAir come about?
Robert McCord: FlexAir came about as a result of customer requirements for a managed service that was similar to a cell phone plan – a solution providing reliable and secure connectivity when and where it’s needed and at an affordable price. When Intelsat launched the first global Ku-band high throughput satellite constellation covering high-density areas it added new spot-beam technology to our existing global network, enabling services like FlexAir that provide much higher data throughput than traditional Ku-band networks while using compact aircraft antennas.
High-throughput Spot-beam technology is like shining a flashlight on a wall. It covers a big area, but when you zoom in, the light not only gets smaller but brighter too. It focusses the energy, and this energy can then be re-used at the same frequency to cover a much greater coverage area. FlexAir users can benefit from global geographic coverage and high throughput with these focused, powerful spot beams while adding redundancy and resiliency from the traditional network of Intelsat wide beam satellites.
Q: What are the main problems it solves for customers?
RM: The problems FlexAir solves for customers really go several layers deep. The first is around data rates. With more powerful spot beams, we get higher rates of data on our network using the same size, or smaller, user antennas.
Secondly, Intelsat’s approach to cyber security means that FlexAir either meets or exceeds all U.S. DoD security standards, and in many cases is more secure than any government network. Our network is operated from a completely secure facility, separate from the Intelsat NOC and with its own IT systems. The Intelsat Secure Operations Center (ISOC) is a facility dedicated to managing this network for government customers, with cleared personnel and active duty military personnel rotating regularly through the ISOC.
Q: What are its key benefits and USPs?
RM: FlexAir’s many benefits include its high level of security, high data rates, the anti-jam aspect of the network and its layers of resiliency.
But probably its biggest USP is its affordability. The problem for the government historically is that launching their own satellites is too hard, too expensive and takes too long. They need to be able to utilise commercial satellites, but historically high data rates weren’t available on existing networks and the available services were very expensive. But now, with FlexAir global militaries can get data rates twenty times better than in the past, and for similar costs.
Q: Tell us a bit more about Intelsat. What is it that makes you stand out from competitors?
RM: Intelsat was the very first satellite communications company. We formed as an international consortium in 1964, back when satellite communications were first coming around, then launched the first commercial communications satellite in 1965.
Moving into managed services marked a new era for the company. Today we provide a suite of managed services for a range of government customers, from littoral to ground applications (fixed, portable and mobile) and FlexAir for government aircraft.
These services leverage on our iDirect Velocity-based ‘Flex’ platform, which includes FlexGround for fixed, manpack, Communications-on-the-Pause, and Communications-on-the Move for land and littoral applications as well as FlexAir. The latest and greatest modem technology has been developed for these systems, which makes them very good at maximising the quality of service for multiple users. They can accommodate many different users at the same time, as opposed to government platforms which traditionally might have set up dedicated links for individual users.
Q: What is the company’s ethos and what is it that gets you excited about working on this project?
RM: Intelsat pushes the boundaries of the satellite industry and continues to think innovatively towards the future. That’s what gets us excited… to embark on programs like FlexAir to make connecting easier, and to make the lives of our customers and their end users, easier. We thrive on creating new technologies and bringing them to market. That’s the synergy of the talented folks here at Intelsat.
At, IGC, many on our team have military backgrounds, and especially those at ISOC. We speak their language, we understand their importance, and we strive to meet their unique needs.
In terms of what gets me excited, it’s knowing we can now provide data rate services at very affordable costs, and that demand for such services is sure to proliferate. Increasingly, all aircraft in every operational environment need to be connected as a node on the network, with satellite being the only option in many cases. And that’s where FlexAir can help. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
At Viasat, we’re driven to connect every warfighter, platform, and node on the battlefield. As a global communications company, we power millions of fast, resilient connections for military forces around the world – connections that have the capacity to revolutionize the mission – in the air, on the ground, and at sea. Our customers depend on us for connectivity that brings greater operational capabilities, whether we’re securing the U.S. Government’s networks, delivering satellite and wireless communications to the remote edges of the battlefield, or providing senior leaders with the ability to perform mission-critical communications while in flight. We’re a team of fearless innovators, driven to redefine what’s possible. And we’re not done – we’re just beginning.