Air Force enlists Viasat to help integrate commercial and military satellite networks

Viasat and AFRL will suggest methods to construct a “hybrid structure” of economic and authorities satellites.

WASHINGTON — The incompatibilities between authorities and business satellite tv for pc networks have been a nagging drawback the U.S. Air Pressure spent years making an attempt to unravel. 

In an effort to give you options, the Air Pressure Analysis Laboratory signed a seven-year $50.8 million contract final month with the worldwide satellite tv for pc communications firm Viasat. 

AFRL’s House Autos Directorate will work with Viasat to determine methods to combine business satcom with government-owned satellites so all of them function as a seamless community. 

The thought of an built-in “enterprise” community has been championed by the chief of the U.S. House Pressure Gen. John Raymond. A doc issued by Raymond in February 2020, titled “United States House Pressure Imaginative and prescient for Satellite tv for pc Communications,” mentioned the present “free federation” of satcom methods doesn’t present sufficient resilience and cybersecurity for international navy operations.

What the House Pressure needs is a “hybrid structure,” Christopher Paul, head of AFRL’s House Car Directorate small satellite tv for pc portfolio, informed table4. Within the venture with Viasat, “we are going to begin to discover ways in which we are able to use business constellations and applied sciences in a extra built-in method.”

Paul mentioned AFRL will take a look at a “extra holistic strategy to future architectures that includes conventional massive satellites, in addition to business small satellites, different nontraditional suppliers in addition to allies,” Paul mentioned.

AFRL is taking up an issue the Air Pressure has studied for years in response to congressional calls for that DoD make the most of the rising business satellite tv for pc capability. 

The Air Pressure in 2016 launched a three-year research on how the service may use business methods to reinforce and substitute government-owned Wideband International Satcom (WGS) satellites. That research was by no means publicly launched. The Authorities Accountability Workplace wrote in a 2019 report that the Pentagon has not found out the way it will meet future demand for wideband satellite tv for pc communications despite the fact that it has spent years finding out the issue.

Satellites and floor gear

Craig Miller, Viasat’s chief know-how officer for presidency methods, mentioned the corporate will convey perception into this venture from its expertise constructing floor terminals for the Protection Division which can be suitable with WGS and with business satcom methods.

“The objective we try to get to is to create a form of versatile system that may use all of the accessible transport assets whether or not it’s ours, business or any individual else’s,” Miller informed table4. 

The broader imaginative and prescient for the hybrid community is to have the ability to incorporate terrestrial methods as nicely, mentioned Miller. Viasat additionally will suggest methods to guard knowledge from cyber assaults or different sorts of interference because it will get routed throughout a constellation of satellites. 

The seven-year contract with AFRL is the kind referred to as indefinite supply, indefinite amount, which provides the federal government flexibility to regulate initiatives. Initially Viasat will solely be doing research. “The outcomes of these research are going to tell the subsequent steps, which we hope can be precise area primarily based missions the place we prototype and reveal a few of these capabilities,” Miller mentioned.

Demonstrations may very well be small satellite tv for pc experiments and prototype floor terminals. The incompatibility of lots of DoD’s consumer terminals with business satellites is a key cause why integration has been tough. 

“It’s essential when potential to take care of backwards compatibility with current terminals,” Miller mentioned. “However in lots of circumstances there merely is a necessity for brand spanking new terminals as we transfer ahead.”

The Air Pressure developed a versatile modem interface so terminals can speak to WGS and to business geostationary satellites. However most of DoD’s current terminals wouldn’t be suitable with low Earth orbit broadband providers like SpaceX’s Starlink. 

“Terminals that help GEO aren’t going to help LEO until you’ve gotten one thing that’s steerable or you’ve gotten one thing that’s a phased array,” mentioned Miller. “That’s among the issues we’re going to discover with this contract too. How can we create capabilities that leverage the prevailing deployed gear at any time when potential?”

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