Julian Nettlefold, BATTLESPACE Editor Interviewed Craig Miller, President, Government Systems, Viasat Inc.
BATTLESPACE discussed Viasat’s global ambitions on seamless connectivity with the impending launch of the ViaSat-3 satellite constellation and the company’s focus on advanced technologies.
To underline Viasat’s technology focus, Viasat showed five demonstrations during AUSA 2021 in October that highlighted satellite communications (SATCOM) ease of use, new crypto and the integration of networks. The company will also be attending the 2021 SMi Global MilSatcom Exhibition this November in London.
“What do you see as the most important future space communications technology?” the Editor asked.
“We are continually evolving our technology to meet the highest level of seamless interoperability and communications across all orbital regimes to enable advanced space-based connectivity to all domains (land, air, space, and sea). The ability to integrate a global network is critical in enabling allied forces to conduct a mission safely. With that in mind, we are focused on best practices and solutions to bring together highly complex, multi-band and multi-network systems to meet operational defence requirements.”
“As we see it, network and system interoperability are essential to unifying capabilities and ensuring resiliency. We are leveraging our technical expertise in networking to “glue” disparate space vehicles, components and networks together to enable advanced communications and data sharing.”
“The ViaSat-3 constellation seems to be the missing piece in the jigsaw for Viasat to provide global connectivity. Could you give more details on this constellation?”
“This is an exciting time for Viasat, our customers and partners. 2022 will see critical launches in our ViaSat-3 strategy, as the first in the trio of satellites is planned to launch within the first half of calendar year 2022; the second will be ready for launch approximately six months following and our third ViaSat-3 class satellite is scheduled to launch in 2023.”
“The ViaSat-3 constellation is comprised of three ultra-high-capacity satellites operating in geostationary orbit (GEO) and in the high capacity Ka-band frequency. Each satellite is expected to offer over 1 Terabit per second (Tbps) of total network throughput – which is the most capacity of any single commercial GEO satellite. This type of capacity enables us to deliver highly reliable, high-speed video streaming for residential customers, commercial airlines and business jets as well as meet the connectivity needs of high-value government transport vehicles whether in the air, on land or at sea.”
“ViaSat-3 will also offer visible Earth coverage, making it Viasat’s first owned global constellation. The first ViaSat-3 satellite system will address the Americas, followed by a second satellite system serving Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and a third system ready to serve the Asia Pacific region. All three ViaSat-3 class satellites will leverage our advanced state-of-the-art ground network infrastructure.”
“You are world leaders in GEO satellite systems with your Viasat constellation. Do you now intend to use LEO as part of your global connectivity offering?”
“Most people in the industry view Viasat as a GEO only provider – but we do development, design and integration work for networks in GEO, middle Earth orbit (MEO) and low Earth orbit (LEO).”
“For example, in MEO – we have a modular phased array antenna design that is scalable, customisable and will be offered in multiple sizes, enabling it to be utilised for both fixed and mobile broadband applications. Our phased array antenna operates over the full ITU Ka-band spectrum. A different version of the antenna will be made to operate on Ku-band.”
“Viasat’s fixed phased array has the ability to dynamically steer beams for rapid, accurate satellite position tracking and seamless handover between satellites on a network; and it can perform on-the-fly reconfiguration of antenna characteristics to enable end-terminals to communicate in a hybrid MEO-to-GEO environment.”
“In LEO, not only do we have our own filing in at the Federal Communications Commission, but we have done several LEO programs. For example in defence we are working on the XVI program, which is the world’s first Link 16-enabled LEO satellite. This system was designed to enhance warfighters’ situational awareness by extending the range of Link 16 networks, setting the precedent for work done by SDA to provide a constellation of satellites to provide greater access to Link 16 capabilities in contested or congested environments.”
“We see this program as a key step towards making a global Link 16-enabled LEO satellite constellation, transforming Link 16 from a Line-of-Sight to a Beyond Line-of-Site network, providing U.S. and allied military forces with ubiquitous, secure, high-speed and resilient communications necessary to improve the common operating picture across the global battlespace.”
“Further, we have a proven flight heritage in LEO space systems. We are currently operating on-orbit, smallsat-class space vehicles and have an extensive library of flight-proven technologies including; intersatellite links, RF payload components (transmitters, receivers, frequency converters, and more) and phased array components. We are dedicated to testing and learning, inventing and delivering, and to pioneering state-of-the-art commercial technology for a responsible, sustainable approach to space.”
“Viasat’s approach to small satellites provides a sustainable and responsible avenue to LEO space access. Our focus is not just on the space vehicle. Instead, we take a holistic view and focus on network building, integration, and management. Combined with our expertise in designing and manufacturing both commercial and DOD satellites, Viasat’s vertical integration in network development and operation helps conserve precious LEO resources by keeping constellation sizes sustainable.”
“We have also developed technologies which allow our users to utilise other systems across the world, linking into Viasat systems. This is particularly important on the battlefield where cyber-attacks by the enemy pinpoint communications links with the desire to disable battlefield communications. Not only does Viasat have the most advanced crypto technology available to defeat such attacks, we also have the technology to move the network seamlessly across the globe utilising existing civil or military constellations.”
“What are Viasat’s key technology strengths?”
“Viasat is more than a space communications company or an internet company, we are a provider of multiple communications technologies to provide connectivity and communications to a variety of military, commercial and consumer customers alike.”
“From a defence perspective, we recognise, that our military customers need the fastest, most secure end-to-end networks available to get information to the warfighter in real-time on the front line of battle—whether that is in the air, on land or at sea and back again.”
“As militaries shift to large-scale combat against near-peer adversaries, it’s essential to have resilient operations that can work across platforms, environments, and Joint Forces. Viasat is focused on deploying new and innovative technologies and business models that rapidly deliver operational capabilities for the multi-domain battlespace.”
“Viasat’s integrated, end-to-end communications vertical integration approach ranges across satellites, data links, backhaul, ground entry, network management, cybersecurity, cloud access, command and control (C2), and end-user terminals – to holistically deliver capabilities across the multi-domain battle that deliver operational advantages. It enables us to offer agile design and rapid development and fielding. By using big data, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) technologies we provide a next-generation leap in capabilities for warfighters, including enabling technologies such as software-defined networking (SDN).”
Could you tell us more about Viasat’s overseas expansion?”
“The launch of the ViaSat-3 constellation will give Viasat global connectivity and will tremendously aid in our overseas expansion.”
“But ahead of ViaSat-3, we made some strategic acquisitions. In April 2021, Viasat purchased the remaining 51% share of EBI from Eutelsat, which gave us 100% ownership of the KA-SAT satellite and related ground infrastructure, which provides satellite coverage over Europe and the Mediterranean region. With complete ownership of these assets, we further diversified our business portfolio in Europe, while establishing operations, distribution and sales for business segments.”
“We also acquired RigNet around the same time. RigNet brought us additional end-to-end, secure managed communications service and installation capabilities on a global scale, along with digital transformation solutions that could help accelerate our business overseas and into new adjacent industries.”
“What plans do you have for your UK operations considering the opportunities offered by the Skynet 6 Programme?” The Editor asked.
“Viasat’s UK operations is looking at ways to aid the British government and Ministry of Defence (MOD) in modernising their technology portfolio. While there are several major MOD acquisition programs underway – involving aircraft carriers, Ajax armoured vehicles and F35 fighter jets – there still exists an overwhelming opportunity to develop new technologies that further advance and connect platforms.”
“Specifically, our UK team is focused on helping to address emerging threats from adversaries by delivering assured, resilient, integrated networks (ARIN) that can help deliver better connected capabilities across today’s rapidly evolving battlespace.”
“What technologies are you providing to the UK MOD?”
“While we can’t talk about all technologies and programmes we deliver to MOD, we can say that we are serving several MOD forces from the Royal Air Force to the Royal Navy.”
“We are proud to have deep roots in protecting UK MOD information, and continue to deliver valuable, innovative and significant advancements across tactical networking and datalinks, information assurance, cyber security and SATCOM.”
Viasat will be exhibiting at the 2021 SMi Global MilSatcom Exhibition, held at the QE2 Conference Centre, London, UK from November 2 -4.
About Craig Miller President, Government Systems
Craig Miller serves as President, Government Systems at Viasat, Inc. In this role, he is responsible for leading the Company’s global defense business, which exceeds US$1 billion in annual revenues by delivering cost-effective, innovative solutions to challenging defense requirements in satellite networks, tactical data links, information assurance, and cyber security.
Craig joined Viasat in 1995, and has held numerous technology, business and strategic leadership roles. Prior to serving as President of Government Systems, he was the segment’s Chief Technology Officer where he was responsible for establishing and communicating the technical strategy and roadmaps for a diverse portfolio of defense products and services: including satellite communications, tactical networks, information assurance, cyber/network security and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance.
Craig also launched the Viasat Government Systems Space Business, which created XVI, the first Link 16-enabled LEO satellite; Viasat’s mobile satellite communications gateway systems; and Viasat’s Hybrid Adaptive Network capabilities. In addition to his role within Viasat’s Government Systems business, Craig also worked with the design team of Viasat’s Space and Commercial Networks group, which developed the ViaSat-3 satellite constellation. In this role, he contributed to the design of Viasat’s next-generation satellite communications constellation and served as a liaison between Viasat’s commercial and government business segments.
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