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

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

WASHINGTON — The incompatibilities between authorities and industrial satellite tv for pc networks have been a nagging downside the U.S. Air Drive has spent years an attempt to unravel. 

In an effort to give you options, the Air Drive Analysis Laboratory signed a seven-year $50.8 million contract 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 industrial satcom with government-owned satellites so all of them function as a seamless community. 

The concept of an built-in “enterprise” community has been championed by the chief of the U.S. House Drive Gen. John Raymond. A doc issued by Raymond in February 2020, titled “United States Space Force Vision for Satellite Communications,” stated the present “free federation” of satcom methods doesn’t present sufficient resilience and cybersecurity for world army operations.

What the House Drive desires is a “hybrid structure,” Christopher Paul, head of AFRL’s House Automobile Directorate small satellite tv for pc portfolio, advised SpaceNews. Within the challenge with Viasat, “we’ll begin to discover ways in which we are able to use industrial constellations and applied sciences in a extra built-in method.”

Paul stated AFRL will have a look at a “extra holistic method to future architectures that includes conventional massive satellites, in addition to industrial small satellites, different nontraditional suppliers in addition to allies.” Paul stated.

AFRL is taking over an issue the Air Drive has studied for years in response to congressional calls for that DoD reap the benefits of the growing commercial satellite capacity. 

The Air Drive in 2016 launched a three-year research on how the service might use industrial methods to enhance and substitute government-owned Wideband World Satcom (WGS) satellites. That research was by no means publicly launched. The Government Accountability Office wrote in a 2019 report that the has not found out the way it will meet future demand for wideband satellite tv for pc communications though it has spent years learning the issue.

Satellites and floor tools

Craig Miller, Viasat’s chief expertise officer for presidency methods, stated the corporate will deliver perception into this challenge from its expertise constructing floor terminals for the Protection Division which are suitable with WGS and with industrial satcom methods.

“The objective we try to get to is to create a kind of versatile system that may use all of the accessible assets whether or not it’s ours, industrial or any individual else’s,” Miller advised SpaceNews. 

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

The seven-year contract with AFRL is the sort often called indefinite supply, indefinite amount, which supplies 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 will likely be precise area based mostly missions the place we prototype and reveal a few of these capabilities,” Miller stated.

Demonstrations may very well be small satellite tv for pc experiments and prototype floor terminals. The incompatibility of a lot of DoD’s consumer terminals with industrial satellites is a key motive why has been troublesome. 

“It’s essential when doable to take care of backwards compatibility with present terminals,” Miller stated. “However in lots of instances there merely is a necessity for brand new terminals as we transfer ahead.”

The Air Drive developed a versatile modem interface so terminals can speak to WGS and to industrial geostationary satellites. However most of DoD’s present 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 except you might have one thing that’s steerable or you might have one thing that’s a phased array,” stated Miller. “That’s among the issues we’re going to discover with this contract too. How can we create capabilities that leverage the present deployed tools each time doable?”

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