The U.S. Government (USG) as well as its Allies have grown increasingly aware of the criticality of space to national security, as well as global stability. After benefitting from industry-driven innovation for years, agencies are clearly moving more decidedly and proactively to capitalize on commercial satellite communications (SATCOM) advancements, as illustrated by the following developments:
- In an October 2023 memo, U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) outlined its ongoing commitment to aligning commercial innovation with mission priorities. This effort aims to leverage industry advancements for operational intelligence, resilient command and control (C2), modernized electronic warfare (EW), robust cyber defense, persistent surveillance, reconnaissance and other critical needs to protect national interests and ensure space operational freedom. The memo also states that USSPACECOM’s future operations will require a resilient space architecture, proliferated constellations, layered defense and end-to-end cyber security, along with offensive and defensive space capabilities.
- The UK Ministry of Defence announced its Defence Space Strategy, which outlines its vision for operationalizing the space domain to defend and protect UK’s interests, along with interests of allies, and support UK ambitions as a meaningful actor in space.
- The Department of Defense (DoD) Space Policy Office is developing a commercial space integration strategy to harness emerging technologies for national security purposes.
- The U.S. Space Force (USSF) is nearing completion of a separate commercial space strategy with the goal of producing actionable steps to leverage industry innovations.
- Additionally, the USSF is continuing to work towards its goal of implementing a hybrid space architecture that interconnects disparate commercial and government satellite networks.
All of these developments in 2023 position Viasat to continue serving as a SATCOM partner for government customers – especially after our completion of the acquisition of Inmarsat in May 2023. Once fully integrated, the combined company will significantly enhance the pace, scale and scope of innovation in the global satellite connectivity sector. It will offer new and improved capabilities to address the ever-increasing demand for speed, flexibility, reliability, coverage, security and resilience. The integration is already proceeding more swiftly and successfully than originally planned, with investments accelerating ahead of earlier estimates and synergy-based savings greater than expected.
As we move forward in 2024, a resonant theme has emerged to underscore the increasing value of Viasat as the trusted connectivity solution provider to government users in all domains and its enriched presence: “Connected. Stronger.” Specifically, the combined companies are bringing the following innovations that align with our government customers’ requirements, while enabling network resilience in even the most highly contested environments:
Space-to-space capabilities - Space-based communications is powering new levels of connectivity. As the government is increasing near-Earth missions, reliable, resilient and cost-effective SATCOM in real-time is critical. In addition, agencies’ growing interest and investment in space is spurring further innovation in space-based capabilities, including these multi-band and multi-orbit solutions, and groundbreaking partnerships. Viasat is delivering space-to-space, multi-orbit, multi-band innovation via SATCOM as a service, so users access worldwide satellite connectivity simply, flexibly and affordably via several applications:
- InRange - Provides rapid, responsive and affordable Launch Support that eliminates the need to construct and maintain costly ground-based launch infrastructure.
- InCommand - Delivers highly efficient, cost-effective and time-critical Launch and Early Operations Phase (LEOP), Low Data Rate Routine Missions and Contingency Mission Operations communications that also remove dependencies on ground infrastructure.
- Inter-Satellite Data Relay Service (IDRS) - Enables a continuous telemetry, tracking and control (TT&C) solution, with up to 200 kbps and global L-band coverage via our GEO ELERA network.
- Real-Time Space Relay - Establishes high-speed Ka-band data connections between satellites within a constellation, creating a dynamic, interconnected network in space. Since LEO satellites are not in constant contact with the ground, intersatellite links allow data to be shared between adjacent satellites. It enhances SATCOM performance in many ways, including low latency, rapid data relay, network resilience, efficient spectrum utilization and scalability.
- The NASA CSP partnership – Viasat and legacy Inmarsat Government are supporting NASA’s Communications Service Project (CSP), which seeks to replace the TDRS system and create a market for near-Earth SATCOM by partnering with commercial providers to establish resilient, flexible and scalable links for optimized data transfer.
- AFRL Demonstration of Relay between DoD LEO and commercial GEO – Viasat will also support Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) in its future mission to demonstrate the military utility of LEO space relay over commercial high throughput satellites in support of space mission resilience, real-time data dissemination, command and control (C2), as well as the rapid retasking of government space vehicles.
Interoperable L-TAC capabilities – Deliver global, beyond line-of-sight (BLOS) communications on the move (COTM) for Ultra High Frequency (UHF) and Very High Frequency (VHF) radio users in all domains of operation: on land, in the air and at sea. The latest evolution of our L-TAC offering delivers new features that allow worldwide service on demand and provide users with rapid and responsive service activation. Furthermore, customers have access to a radio frequency over Internet protocol (RFoIP) solution that supports remote monitoring of L-TAC channels and enables user nets to be remote worldwide over an IP connection.
In 2023, the legacy Inmarsat Government team completed a cross-country demonstration of the L-band tactical satellite service (L-TAC) with its partners L3 Harris, Thales and Spectra Group. During the demonstration, we and our partners showcased the embedded L-TAC functionality on L3 Harris’s newest line of radios, the PRC-163 and PRC-167, as well as the Spectra Group L-TAC applique that can be added to legacy radios. In addition, the companies highlighted how L-TAC creates a unique, high-performance solution for the U.S. DoD UHF legacy SATCOM system and its replacement constellation, the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS).
Resilient G-MODMAN II modem manager capabilities — Seamlessly integrates with existing antenna control systems and provides the enabling technology that supports implementation of the next generation of Global Xpress (GX) Ka-band terminals.
The G-MODMAN Open Platform allows for seamless switching between GX steerable beams and the government’s Wideband Global SATCOM system (WGS) to provide customers with always-on availability, capacity, coverage and capability for mission operations.
Flexible Black ICE SDR family of modem solutions — Supports the rapid and flexible development and integration of commercial off-the-shelf as well as custom waveforms to satisfy challenging, mission-specific requirements.
This software-defined radio (SDR) modem solutions meets high-demand requirements of military users by delivering security, agility, low form factor and high-performance user terminals. Black ICE SDR enables the reduction in size, weight, and power (SWaP) in L-band user terminals and supports government operations in secure and contested environments in Ka-band.
Mercury Free Space Optics — Innovative tactical communications that uses advanced commercial-off-the-shelf technology to deliver resilient, high-capacity terrestrial communications for contested environments.
To support expeditionary communications and warfighters at the tactical edge, this Free Space Optics terminal offers a reliable alternative for connectivity in contested environments. With a high-capacity and resilient design, it supports secure communications with data rates of up to 40 Gbps and a range of up to 70 km. Its advanced features include automated pointing and tracking to help ensure reliability in spectrum-congested and contested environments.
Low-SWaP LAISR ULW user terminals — Provide customers with multi-megabit data rate throughput in L-band to support BLOS communications, while further reducing the total terminal size, weight and power.
The L-band Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Ultra-Lightweight (LAISR ULW) user terminals ensure access to high availability, high performance, full duplex, secure BLOS communications via the global ELERA L-band network. Featuring an integrated antenna self-steering capability, ULW does not require external navigation data from the host platform and can operate in GPS denied environments.
Dual-Band Flexible Terminals for Airborne Platforms — Provides enhanced capability for multi-purpose military airborne platform. Viasat’s GAT-5530 was integrated into the Airbus C295 MSA, a multirole surveillance aircraft, to support the Irish Air Corps with enhanced, flexible broadband connectivity to meet mission requirements.
The GAT-5530 terminal supports the entire ITU Ku- and Ka-bands, which includes 3.5GHz of commercial and military Ka-band. This multi-faceted terminal offers greater operational flexibility for military customers as they seek increased resilience with multi-frequency (Ku/Mil-Ka/Commercial-Ka), multi-orbit (GEO, MEO, LEO, HEO), multi-network communications architectures.
GX LITE flat-panel antenna — Enables secure, flexible high-throughput communications for land forces worldwide.
The new, award-winning GX LITE terminal provides highly reliable broadband connectivity for tactical military and non-military users worldwide via the GX Ka-band network. Built for land users with “grab and go” applications, the lightweight and compact terminal improves end user mobility while allowing worldwide access and secure operations, at an affordable price point.
End-to-end cybersecurity — Provide secure and resilient edge to enterprise integrated connectivity solutions to our military and government customers operating in all domains. Our latest innovations include:
- Trusted Cybersecurity Services - Enhances cybersecurity programs for unclassified networks with intelligence from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Viasat Threat Intelligence. Leveraging classified government threat intelligence, this solution amplifies advanced intrusion detection, helping protect agencies against malicious cyber threats and strengthening their network security posture.
- KG-255XJ - End Cryptographic Unit (ECU) for secure Telemetry, Tracking and Commanding, as well as mission data in satellite operations centers. Achieving NSA Type-1 certification, the KG-255XJ delivers robust encryption to protect classified data and secure communications between satellite operations centers and satellites.
Data At Rest (DAR) encryption solutions, such as the Data at Rest Crypto - solid-state drive 600 Non-Volatile Memory Express (DARC-ssd™ 600 NVMe) -- safeguards sensitive and classified information in compatible Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) laptops, computers and small form factor PCs in enterprise and tactical environments.
U.K. designed and manufactured, this high-performance solid-state drive delivers capacities ranging from 256GB to 1TB. It is easy to install, compatible with most computers, and offers advanced security features like encryption and protection against cloning. It is also the only solution of its type that has been fully evaluated for the protection of data up to Top Secret classification by the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).
The integration of Viasat and Inmarsat represents a classic case of “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” for government customers. It signifies our continued commitment to innovation with now-dramatically expanded offerings. With a highly productive and successful 2023 behind us and a promising 2024 ahead, we appreciate that resilient, adaptable and secure connectivity has only grown as an essential component of the mission.
We understand that the front line is wherever the user is. We also recognize that our customers have grown up in a fully connected world and expect the same regardless of contested environments. If you’d like to learn more about how we make this possible for agencies, then please contact us.