In late June of this year, SES announced that its latest satellite in Geostationary orbit (GEO) – SES-17 – was fully operational following months of in-orbit raising and successful in-orbit testing. SES-17 is an exciting addition to the SES satellite constellation since it covers an incredibly important area – North America, the Atlantic, Europe – and is also a fully-electric, very high throughput satellite capable of delivering incredible capacity to government and military users in this area.
But there are multiple other reasons why government and military users, specifically, should be interested in SES-17. The satellite has been called, “built to deliver managed services,” at a time when the U.S. government and military are increasingly interested in moving towards purchasing satellite as a service. The system that controls and managed SES-17 is also the same that SES will leverage to manage its soon-to-be-launched O3b mPOWER MEO satellite service – opening the door for military and government users to access a multi-orbit satellite solution as a service.
To learn more about SES-17 and how it could benefit military and government organizations in need of commercial satellite communication (COMSATCOM) services, we sat down with Amit Katti and Carolyn Cuppernull of SES Government Solutions (SES GS).
Government Satellite Report (GSR): In late June, SES announced that SES-17 was “fully operational.” What exactly does that mean? What transpires from satellite launch to a satellite being “fully operational?”
Carolyn Cuppernull: Fully operational suggests that the satellite has reached orbit as planned, after months of in-orbit raising and testing. This also means that the Very High Throughput Satellite (VHTS) is ready to offer managed broadband services across the Americas and the Atlantic.
SES-17 is the first satellite with a 100 percent digital payload, which means that it can be managed automatically using the SES Adaptive Resource Controller.” -Amit Katti
We can offer a flexible and cost-effective way to deliver high-quality broadband services. The SES-17 next-generation ground system is optimized for the delivery of high-throughput bandwidth that, when combined with SES-17’s advanced satellite capabilities and our service lifecycle expertise, enables the creation and delivery of tailored services.
GSR: SES-17 is considered a “high-throughput satellite (HTS).” What does that mean? How is an HTS different from a traditional satellite in GEO?
Amit Katti: Fundamentally, a high-throughput satellite (HTS) allows for frequency reuse across several spot beams, considering each of those beams can deliver hundreds of Mbps in throughput. SES-17 is a VHTS, which means that it has potential to deliver hundreds of Mbps across 200+ spot beams in a specific configuration.
In addition, SES-17 is the first satellite with a 100 percent digital payload, which means that it can be managed automatically using the SES Adaptive Resource Controller (ARC). ARC is a component that allows dynamic capacity allocation and resource management on the spacecraft.
The ARC system supports our strategy to provide a multi-orbit service using O3b mPOWER and SES-17, given that both these space assets are “managed” by ARC.
Our service offering consists of an integrated service portfolio that allows the military and government users alike to utilize the full benefits of platforms hosted on SES-17.” -Carolyn Cuppernull
SES-17 offers 200 configurable spot beams connected to 16 gateways that are capable of changing power and frequency based on the mission needs delivering increased throughout, better link optimization, and performance. SES-17 also offers HTS Ka-band GEO spot beams covering the Americas and includes unparalleled scalability, enabling the ability to increase capacity where and when it is needed without additional hardware costs.
Using global terrestrial MPLS network we can provide enterprise grade end-to-end connectivity solutions tailored to unique customer requirements.
GSR: SES-17 has been positioned as an example of two major trends or changes that we’re witnessing in how the government and military utilize commercial satellite – the movement towards shared services, and the integration of COMSATCOM services into the military’s satellite architecture. How does SES-17 align with managed services? What about this satellite makes it ideal for satellite managed services?
Carolyn Cuppernull: SES-17 was launched to primarily provide fully managed services. Our service offering consists of an integrated service portfolio that allows the military and government users alike to utilize the full benefits of platforms hosted on SES-17.
This means that SES GS will be able to provide fully operational COMSATCOM terminals on pre-defined – yet customizable – service plans that the government can fully utilize on Day 1. This also allows the end-users the flexibility to start the network small, as small as a single terminal, and ramp up the number of terminals added to a network within no time, because we have invested and stood up the hub-side architecture at multiple gateways.
In addition, the system architecture is designed that regardless of which gateway the traffic lands, it is terminated at SES GS’ Point of Presence (POP) in Ashburn and Los Angeles on the Global Terrestrial Network (GTN). From there, we are able to re-route the services to end-user locations or the internet as needed.
We add inherent security layers on top of the standard data path to make our managed services secure for the military to use.” -Amit Katti
With capacity on SES-17 offered as part of a managed service, U.S. government and military customers can use high-throughput satellite with submeter antennas. Programs like TROJAN – which utilizes small form-factor terminals – could benefit. There are also benefits for military Comms-on-the-Move (COTM) use cases.
GSR: What about the integrated commercial and military satellite and the network architecture? What about SES-17 makes it a satellite that could be easily and seamlessly utilized by the military?
Amit Katti: We add inherent security layers on top of the standard data path to make our managed services secure for the military to use. When the traffic terminates at one of SES GS’ GTN POPs, the traffic is routed on a secure network designed for the U.S. government community.
We also apply specific policies and controls defined by the U.S. government on the end-to-end network, therefore extending the security layer all the way to the end-user terminal.
Since the satellite can deliver more throughput using smaller terminals, it enables the military to spend less on HUB hardware for its Satellite Communications (SATCOM) solution. That’s critical because it enables more service availability to the warfighter.
GSR: Why does the military want these things? Why would they want to integrate COMSATCOM services into their military networks?
Carolyn Cuppernull: It comes down to efficiency and scalability. Because SES-17 offers fully managed services, the military can deploy a network for a single terminal, a cluster of terminals, or a combination of mobile and fixed terminals. The service offering and ease of deployment – is consistent across any form of deployment. This makes deployment super-fast and extremely scalable.
The COMSATCOM platforms utilized to provide these services offer high throughputs – up to 100s of Mbps per terminal. That makes for a very compelling use-case, especially for using this service for training purposes in the contiguous United States.
Cost is also an important factor. The government is always seeking a less expensive solution which supports their requirements for size, weight, power, and expense. SES-17 delivers that.
GSR: We know that SES is poised to launch the O3b mPOWER satellite service in the very near future. How will O3b mPOWER impact these two trends?
Amit Katti: SES-17 is equipped with ARC, an industry-first software system that dynamically and autonomously optimizes space and ground resources on demand.
ARC will also be integrated into O3b mPOWER, enabling managed connectivity integrated into our multi-orbit GEO-MEO fleet creating an interoperable network.