In a previous article on the Government Satellite Report, we talked with two members of the SES Government Solutions team, Eric Gunzelman and Mike Blefko, about the SES O3b mPOWER system.
O3b mPOWER is a powerful, flexible, and scalable MEO (Medium Earth Orbit) satellite-based system slated for launch in 2021. It will be comprised of advanced communication satellites, innovative ground infrastructure and intelligent software to deliver exceptionally high bandwidth connectivity to nearly 80 percent of the Earth’s surface.
While O3b mPOWER has the potential to deliver incredible capabilities to the Department of Defense (DoD) across all domains, during our discussion, Mike and Eric talked about the potential benefits that O3b mPOWER could deliver in the air domain, specifically.
Our last article featured the first part of that discussion, when we talked about the role that O3b mPOWER can play in enhancing current UAV connectivity needs and meeting future requirements. Here is the next part of that conversation, in which we discuss military transport aircraft and how they will also benefit from the advanced capabilities that can be enabled by O3b mPOWER.
Here is what they had to say:
Government Satellite Report (GSR): What type of connectivity is available on manned military transports and refueling planes today?
Mike Blefko: There is connectivity available on today’s manned military transports and refueling tankers, predominantly supplied by wideband GEO satellite services. However, with MEO, adding inherently higher throughputs and lower latency, the military can add additional functionality and capability in transport aircraft.
Eric Gunzelman: In terms of applications, defense and security users are primarily focused on enabling access to mission-critical services and applications enabling information sharing and decision-making.
This requires higher bandwidth coming off the aircraft, and not just data to the aircraft.
GSR: You’ve mentioned that these applications need to both send and receive data, but what are they, specifically? What types of use cases and applications could there be for high-bandwidth satellite connectivity on military transports and refueling planes?
Eric Gunzelman: All modern widebody military aircraft provide capabilities that go beyond their standard mission sets – such as long-haul transport or refueling missions.
Airlift aircraft require en route communications and planning. Aerial refueling aircraft require communications relay. Air mobility support, including airplanes that provide aeromedical evacuation services, benefit from telemedicine and telehealth implementations for en route surgery. There are numerous reasons why widebody aircraft need high bandwidth connectivity.
Then there are the VIP Special Air Missions (VIPSAM), which involve transporting senior government officials. These individuals have important jobs and would benefit greatly from having the same access to communications and applications en route as they do in their offices. This way, they’re capable of informed decision-making and mission planning even if they’re in transit.
GSR: Why is O3b mPOWER a good solution for widebody aircraft?
Mike Blefko: Satellite constellations at Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) inherently offer lower latency than GEO satellites. It basically comes down to distance. GEO is further away than MEO by a factor of four, or in other terms, MEO communicates in a quarter of the time that it takes to get data through GEO.
Being comprised of next-generation MEO satellites, the terabit-scale O3b mPOWER system will offer extremely fast, low-latency connections for widebody aircraft, regardless of their communications requirements. O3b mPOWER also offers incredible bandwidth and high throughputs, which means that transportation and refueling aircraft will essentially have fiber-like connectivity.
Finally, the low latency nature of O3b mPOWER enables more real-time based processes, such as cloud-based services. This can help to relieve downrange operators of maintaining their own forward deployed network and make other cloud services accessible to users.
Eric Gunzelman: In addition to that unprecedented high throughput and low latency, O3b mPOWER uniquely offers the customer flexibility and adaptability.
Customers can create their own federated secure networks within this O3b mPOWER network; they can route their beams from one terminal to another or to their own gateway and shape their beams to put energy just where they want it; they can respond to contingencies more rapidly than ever before and do all of this with inherent jamming resistance thanks to the design of the narrow beams, the moving nature of MEO satellites, frequency diversity and polarization diversity.
Also, O3b mPOWER offers a significant upload path. This means that it’s well-suited to address the upload and download requirements of military communications and applications.