On the heels of the Federal Administration Administration (FAA) announcing the March 21 enactment of a new rule to streamline the licensing process for private sector space launch and re-entry operations, Omnispace, LLC and Lockheed Martin [LMT] said on March 23 that the companies have entered an agreement to pursue space-based 5G communications–a priority for Lockheed Martin CEO James Taiclet since his assumption of the Lockheed Martin helm last July.
“The proposed global 5G standards-based non-terrestrial network (NTN) would offer commercial, enterprise and government devices ubiquitous communications worldwide,” the companies said in a statement. “This type of network has the potential to redefine mobile communications, benefiting users requiring true mobility, regardless of environment or location.”
5G will likely be a significant part of the Pentagon’s Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) concept.
“Seamless, global 5G connectivity has a wide range of civil and commercial applications,” per Omnispace and Lockheed Martin. “It also brings the coverage and capacity to support defense, government and military use, including mobile joint all-domain interoperable communications.”
Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space, said that Omnispace and Lockheed Martin shared a vision of a space-based 5G global network “that would enable users to seamlessly transition between satellite and terrestrial networks — eliminating the need for multiple devices on multiple networks.”
“Ultimately, it’s about empowering end users with low latency connections that work anywhere,” he said in the companies’ statement. “This step forward has the potential to upend space-based mobility.”
Last October, the Pentagon announced $600 million in contracts for 5G pilot programs at five installations, which the department said represent “the largest full-scale 5G tests for dual-use applications in the world.” (Defense Daily, Oct. 8, 2020)
The five projects include experimentation with smart warehouses at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany in Georgia and Naval Base San Diego, augmented and virtual reality at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, dynamic spectrum sharing at Hill AFB, Utah and distributed command and control at Nellis AFB, Nev.
Lockheed Martin’s vision of 5G for the military goes far beyond base networks, however, and includes “networking every sensor with every shooter across the services and across domains” to provide “real-time data to maximize the effectiveness of our total force, Taiclet has said.
Whether it’s the F-35, Lockheed Martin’s Aegis Combat System, the Army’s Future Vertical Lift platforms or even other company’s systems, Taiclet said last October that these will be the “edge computing nodes of the future and the processing systems that act as the core network to tie it all together.” (Defense Daily, Oct. 20, 2020).
Last August, Lockheed Martin and York Space Systems, received Space Development Agency contracts for the first generation of the National Defense Space Architecture’s transport layer–20 satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) (Defense Daily, Sept. 1). Each company will build 10 LEO satellites for the initial space transport sensor and communication layer.
“The award represents an important step toward building an interoperable, connected and secure mesh network of satellites that links ground, sea and air capabilities to sensors in space,” Taiclet said last October, adding that the SDA contract is “an opportunity to bring together an array of high-tech platforms into one cohesive network that spans every domain for unmatched situational awareness, powered with 5G technology.”