Viasat set to merge the commercial and military satellite networks

Discrepancies across government and the private sector communications technologies have been a pestering issue for the United States Air Force for ages.  The previous month, the Air Force Research Laboratory agreed to a seven-year $50.8 million agreement with the multinational satellite telecommunications firm Viasat to identify alternatives. The AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate will collaborate with Viasat to find out how to combine private Satcom with state-owned spacecraft so that they all function as a single network. 

Gen. John Raymond, the United States Space Force commander, has advocated for an interconnected “innovation” system. The present “loose federal state” of wireless communications infrastructure, according to a paper released by Raymond in February 2020 entitled “U.S. Space Force Roadmap for Satellite Systems,” does not have sufficient stability and surveillance for international military activities. According to Christopher Paul, manager of AFRL’s Space Vehicle Directorate smaller spacecraft collection, what the Space Force needs is a “hybrid structure.” “We will begin to discuss forms that the industry can utilize industrial celestial bodies and innovations in a much more streamlined manner in the venture with Viasat.” He further added.

AFRL is focusing on a challenge that the Air Force has been researching for decades that have led to parliamentary requests that the Department of Defense control increasing industrial satellite capability. Throughout 2016, the Air Force conducted a three-year project to investigate how the military could use private platforms to supplement and substitute state-owned Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) spacecraft. The report wasn’t ever publicly disclosed. The Government Accountability Office stated in a 2019 analysis that the Pentagon has not worked out how to satisfy potential expectations for transceiver satellite telecommunications after years of research.

According to Miller, the integrated network’s larger goal is to try to integrate regional networks. Viasat may also recommend methods to secure data against cyber threats or other forms of intrusion when it travels through a network of satellites. The seven-year agreement with AFRL is of the unlimited arrival, indefinite volume kind, which allows the state to change projects as required. Viasat would initially only conduct research. “The outcomes of those experiments will guide the next moves, which the company hopes will be real space-based flights wherein the organization prototype and show a few of these functionalities,” Miller explained.

Limited satellite tests and model land stations may be used as presentations. Assimilation has been problematic due to the inconsistency of the DoD’s consumer interfaces with commercial spacecraft. The Air Force created a versatile modulation interface that allows terminals to communicate with WGS and industrial geostationary spacecraft. However, much of the Department of Defense’s current terminals will be incompatible with low-Earth orbit network infrastructure such as SpaceX’s Starlink.

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