Viasat [VSAT] says its Hybrid Adaptive Network (HAN) fits with the United States Space Force’s (USSF) Vision for Enterprise Satellite Communications (SATCOM) to bolster the speed, agility and resilience of military satellite communications for aircraft and other users.
Released on Jan. 23 and approved by Gen. John Raymond, the chief of space operations for the new U.S. Space Force who was sworn in as the commander by Vice President Mike Pence at the White House on Jan. 14, the vision says that U.S. Space Force “will provide an operationally effective, affordable, resilient, and secure satellite communications architecture that supports global mission priorities and is adaptable to rapidly changing requirements, technologies, and threats.”
U.S. Space Force is to provide SATCOM capabilities to the U.S. Space Command “in order to support joint warfighters across the full spectrum of conflict, in CDO [contested, degraded and operationally-limited environments] and tactically-relevant timelines,” according to the vision statement.
“In many significant ways, Viasat’s HAN leadership fits and underpins the USSF SATCOM Vision for a ‘Single Enterprise’ with network situational awareness, management, and selection of layers of networks that provide the Commander with multi-path operations across multiple bands, orbits and network schemes (i.e. waveforms, etc.) to support assured and responsive CDO operations in tactical timelines,” Ken Peterman, the president of Viasat Government Systems, wrote in an email to sister publication, Avionics International.
“Viasat’s service offers simultaneous connectivity on multiple networks, today, and these networks span different frequency bands, orbits and waveforms – demonstrating that the HAN can serve as the foundation for all-domain operations providing warfighters with a scheme of maneuver, enhanced situational awareness and significantly improved resilience that will help warfighters maintain a tactical advantage across the battlespace,” Peterman wrote. “The ability to roam across layers of networks is not only a deterrent but a fundamental enabler for decisive operations in CDO environments.”
CDO environments look to be a priority for U.S. Space Force, as the vision says that the United States “must move faster than our adversaries to ensure warfighters receive the operational benefits of a SATCOM enterprise capable of delivering SATCOM effects in CDO environments.”
“We must adopt faster acquisition processes and faster command and control constructs to maintain the advantage in any conflict,” according to the vision statement.
Commercial satellite companies are to be a key piece of the U.S. Space Force’s goal to improve network agility.
Formed in 2015, the Commercial Integration Cell (CIC) is to integrate commercial satellite capabilities into the Combined Space Operations Center (CSpOC) at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The eight companies in the CIC are Eutelsat America Corp., Inmarsat, Intelsat General Communications, Iridium Communications [IRDM], MAXAR Technologies [MAXR], SES Government Solutions, Viasat, and XTAR.
CIC companies provide such capabilities as Low Earth Orbit (LEO), Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit (GEO), and satellites with multiband communication support, mobility communications, voice and data connections, spatial and space-based technology solutions, and terrestrial imagining.
“Space operations is a team sport,” Viasat’s Peterman said in a telephone interview. “It’s important that DoD leverage commercial capabilities, which are coming at such an accelerated rate. The commercial world can invest faster and more agilely than DoD can.”
Viasat is also expecting that the launch next year or in 2022 of the Viasat-3 constellation will dramatically change SATCOM, a change that will allow DoD to be a “fractional user” of the system and double or triple DoD’s use of SATCOM.
“The ViaSat-3 (VS-3) constellation will be a game-changer for DoD and our allies,” Peterman wrote in his email to sister publication Avionics. “Military operations are planned based on limited capacity and potential interference, but imagine an operational environment in which warfighters are not bandwidth constrained. VS-3 will provide global coverage and advanced resilience features able to deliver more than 3TB [three terabits per second] of capacity to users anywhere in the world. So all users will be able to double or triple their operational use cases and even the users lowest on the priority list will still be provided assured communications when and where they need it.”
A HAN multi-network approach and a service-based model of service could permit a significant DoD enhancement of “a range of capabilities providing the warfighter with affordable, resilient options on demand,” Peterman wrote. “Hybrid architectures are already in place, similar to the Viasat global network that has been serving DoD, high-profile U.S. government, and commercial customers for more than 15 years. These hybrid managed service architectures offer insight to DoD leaders looking to transition to a managed service-based model and validate the enhanced performance, resilience, affordability and security advantages of SATCOM-as-a-Service business models that have been and are continuously evolving and improving to incorporate new, higher performance satellite networks as they become available and to better match the customer (user) demand for higher performance and affordability.”
Viasat has also been working with the Air Force Research Laboratory on a demonstration to show that ground-based military radios can transmit Line of Sight Link 16 data to a LEO satellite to improve military situational awareness. That may evolve to an attempt to link the LEO satellite to a GEO satellite to allow distant commanders to have a bird’s-eye view of the battlefield. One day, such a capability may also allow the distant transmission of near-real time telematics data from aircraft, according to Viasat.
“We see a tactical data link LEO constellation, which has the power to turn stovepiped, Line-Of-Sight networks into interoperable, Beyond-Line-Of-Sight networks, as another example of a network that can be integrated into a HAN architecture in order to gain and maintain communications through all operating environments,” Peterman wrote.
“A network of layers is a force multiplier that increases SATCOM resilience and deterrence,” he wrote in his email. “By being able to roam across multiple networks (government and commercial) and orbital regimes, warfighters will be able to leverage specific capabilities or advantages needed to successfully execute their mission. LEOs may provide some advantages in specific operations while GEOs may provide better capabilities in others, but the ability for warfighters to easily roam among networks and orbital regimes in a single SATCOM enterprise will be key to enhancing mission effectiveness and maintaining superiority in space.”