When it comes to military space and satellite capabilities, resiliency has become the primary focus and concern. Today’s military knows the tactical and technological edge that it gets from its satellite networks and architecture, and it’s set on trying to preserve that edge for the warfighter.
This is one of the reasons why the military continues to rely on X-band satellites and frequencies for their communications requirements – they’re considered more effective and reliable. Unfortunately, the Department of Defense (DoD) has another resiliency problem when it comes to its X-band satellite constellation, WGS. There are less than a dozen WGS satellites, making the bandwidth on those satellites a precious and limited commodity.
There are numerous instances where users with an X-band or a military Ka-band terminal operating on WGS could suddenly find themselves without satellite communications. Maybe the bandwidth needed isn’t available. Or maybe WGS isn’t available. Or they’ve been bumped off of WGS for a higher priority user.
These aren’t hypothetical situations – they actually happen.
In any of those scenarios that I listed, the user can either go without satellite communications or they can turn to the commercial market. The latter is often what they do – acquiring COMSATCOM capabilities on the spot market to fill the SATCOM requirements that WGS can’t.
There are numerous reasons why this isn’t ideal. This method of satellite acquisition is time consuming, takes some level of effort, and can be expensive and limiting. This acquisition process keeps the military from leveraging the full innovation and creativity of the commercial industry, but it isn’t ideal from a terminal hardware perspective either.
A terminal situation
The X-band and military Ka terminals that military personnel are deployed with are certified and registered military satellite terminals that have been rigorously tested and vetted to ensure that they work with WGS. The military goes through this process to not only ensure that the terminal functions as advertised, but also to learn its idiosyncrasies. The military doesn’t want any surprises for its warfighters in theater, so they learn everything about these satellite terminals and train the user in the field how to get the most out of them.
Unfortunately, with the vast majority of commercial satellites operating at Ku-, C-, or commercial Ka-bands, these military terminals can’t be used on the vast majority of commercial satellites. This most likely means carrying an additional terminal for additional resiliency over commercial SATCOM.
A more sophisticated solution would be a commercial satellite that delivers the same X and mil Ka-band services as a military satellite. And that’s exactly what is possible with GovSat-1.
GovSat-1 is a commercially owned and operated satellite that gives the military the security and reliability of MILSATCOM with the availability, innovative technology, and accessibility of COMSATCOM. GovSat-1 is effectively a military AND government satellite, built using a rapid commercial approach whilst maintaining the robust requirements of a military satellite. It provides both X and mil-Ka frequency bands and features many of the advanced capabilities and securities that are found in today’s more advanced communications satellites.
Most importantly to the topic at hand – GovSat-1 can operate and work with the same military approved satellite terminals that the warfighter already uses with the WGS satellite constellation. This means that only one terminal needs to be carried. A terminal that has undergone rigorous testing, trials and vetting and that the operator has been trained on to ensure optimal performance.
And that brings us back to our original discussion about resiliency…
Imagine that you’re a satellite operator at a forward operating base. The WGS satellite that you were relying on for mission-critical communications is not available because it either doesn’t have the capacity available for your requirements, or has been denied by the adversary.
In this instance, the ability to seamlessly roll over to a commercial X band satellite is pertinent. And the ability to do so with the same terminal could be invaluable. By having a commercial option like GovSat-1 that utilizes military technology, the DoD can increase the resiliency of their satellite networks and give the warfighter a way to seamlessly meet their satellite requirements without changing terminals or losing the safety and security of operating in X-band.