How space defense and satcom enable military operations and connectivity

Explore the critical relationship between satellites, space defense, satcom and warfighter connectivity

Space defense team uses satellite internet to access critical data.

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In June 1969, Neil Armstrong declared the moon landing—one of the first human forays into space—“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

More than 50 years later, space is no longer a new frontier, but a key contributor to worldwide societal advancement.

For the United States, space defense is a top priority. It is critical for the U.S. military to maintain its current position in space and use it to enhance its operations on the ground—both to stay ahead of adversary nations and contribute to the larger good of global society.

Satellite technology plays a central role in this effort, particularly as it relates to supporting the availability of real-time information to support military operations.

In this article, we’ll define how the U.S. military and space defense closes connectivity gaps for military operations as well as how Viasat’s recent partnership with the U.S. Air Force has the potential to enable warfighter connectivity.

Quick takeaways

Space defense is the top layer of the United States’ multidimensional operations strategy.

The U.S. government and Department of Defense have both emphasized the criticality of space defense and its prioritization in larger strategies.

Space defense contributes to critical connectivity for military operations, enabling real-time data sharing through satellite communication, even in remote locations.

Viasat has recently partnered with the United States Air Force Research Laboratory to explore how SATCOM can enhance U.S. military operations and performance.

Similar strategic partnerships have potential to power other impactful initiatives in areas like disaster response, education, economic improvement, and climate monitoring.

Space defense 101: What it is and why It matters

Space defense capabilities, including satellite communication (SATCOM), help maintain military superiority as it relates to both positioning and mission critical real-time data.

Today, SATCOM is a critical component of the national defense strategy for the United States and other developed countries around the world. Space connectivity gives military organizations the type of real-time, bird’s-eye view they need to execute agile and responsive missions.

Space defense is the top layer of a multi-domain operations strategy maintained by the United States military, and the only one with a complete view of all activities at every level.

For 60+ years, the United States has been a leader in space defense and exploration. In 2021, the federal government released its Strategic Framework for Space Diplomacy, which outlined how the U.S. will continue to prioritize space in its efforts toward both societal advancement and national security.

In the official release of the Framework, Vice President Kamala Harris summarized the central role of space in future U.S. strategy:

“Today,” she said, “as was the case 60 years ago, our nation’s leadership in space is critical to our economic prosperity, to our scientific and technological progress, and, in a time of increasing great power rivalry, to our national security.”

How space defense addresses a digital divide

Without the ability to communicate from satellites to ground stations, or even between satellites, military missions could be delayed or decisions often have to be made without current or complete intelligence information. The implications of these gaps can’t be understated.

Space defense and space superiority are the keys to solving this challenge and unlocking capabilities that keep the U.S. and its allies a step ahead of adversaries. And while NASA and the military were once self-contained when it came to technology development, today they are seeing the clear advantages of leveraging commercial partnerships to accelerate advancement.

Back in 2020, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) publicly recognized the growing need for commercial partnerships to optimize SATCOM and enhance military resilience and performance.

More specifically, they identified the need to centralize SATCOM management for greater agility, efficiency, communication, and situational awareness.

Implications for the Future

The ability for space defense to contribute closing connectivity gaps for military operations is clear, but the future potential of the technology is much more far-reaching. Partnerships between Viasat and other public or private organizations can also enhance other critical initiatives and missions, such as:

Disaster Response and Recovery — Enabling impacted communities and emergency responders to reliably communicate and execute response efforts.

Remote Education — Extending remote education capabilities to underserved communities around the world.

Economic Development — Enabling businesses in underserved communities to expand their business to the internet, promoting economic growth.

Climate Monitoring — Enhancing the ability for governments to see, predict, prevent, and minimize the impact of adverse weather events.

These are just a few examples, and many more are sure to arise going forward. The takeaway from these examples: When expertise and resources are combined, the impact is greater.

Learn more here about Viasat partnerships and current initiatives.