Government and Military Satellite Communications
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This month our magazine features the future of the Government and Military Satellite Communications markets including both commercial satellite communications (COMSATCOM) and Military Satellite Communications (MILSATCOM). According to NSR’s Brad Grady this sector was about $6.4B in 2019 and NSR projects that it will grow to over $11B by 2029 for equipment and services, with the principle driver aeronautical segments for manned and unmanned applications, with the emphasis on HTS and NGSO constellations. For now the key has been the migration from FSS to HTS. NSR observes that global military HTS in 2019 was 16 Gbps. In 2021 NSR projects usage with be 33 Gbps for FSS vs. 37 Gbps for HTS and by 2024 that delta is projected to be +100 Gbps in favor of HTS. By 2029, it is projected to more than +780 Gbps in favor of HTS-based architectures while FSS Gbps demand will only double from 2019 to 2029 (26 Gbps to 63 Gbps).
Asia-Pacific had only 23% of Gbps demand in 2019 (~ 9.6 Gbps from FSS + HTS), However, the region is expected to grow to over 260+ Gbps of demand by 2029 – which NSR projects will be 29% of the total global demand.
Koen Willems of ST Engineering iDirect focuses on on-the-move (OTM) and on-the-pause (OTP) assets and something I never heard of before: Internet of Military Things (IoMT). Koen discusses transmission security (TRANSEC) and wisely notes that the human factor is still the weakest link in the security chain.
Simon Seminari of Euroconsult calculates that global government investments in Satcom in 2020 totaled just under US$6 billion. This represents a nearly continuous downward trend over the last decade, from the 2010 peak of $9.5 billion but that institutional defense spending in satcom is entering a renewed investment phase in 2021, with budgets trending upwards until the middle of the decade.
Tom Cox, VP for Business Development & Sales at Wavestream Corp. describes how NGSO constellations present the military with a clear advantage over GEO satellites because an adversary must impact not one, but dozens or even hundreds of satellites simultaneously in order to successfully jam or degrade communications networks.
Finally, we feature an interview with Phil Carrai, President of the Space, Training and Cybersecurity Division of Kratos Defense and Security Solutions, Inc, who discusses some of the challenges of Space Domain Awareness (SDA) and interference.
Let me end this note by saying that we are still hoping that in addition to our Webinars we will be able to get together in person in November 2021 at our annual conference. More on that shortly!
Government and Military Satellite Communications
Simon Seminari, Principal Advisor, Euroconsult
The Satellite Communications (SatCom) sector allows the delivery of space-based communication services reliant on satellite technology and includes a wide diversity of stakeholders, both commercial and institutional (civil and defence government actors). The upstream SatCom sector includes actors involved in the manufacturing and launch services of telecommunications satellites; the mid-stream SatCom sector includes all actors involved in operating satellites as well as actors involved in the manufacturing of the ground segment network and terminals; the downstream sector is composed of satellite communication service providers, which commercialize Satcom data and services to users (either government civil, defence, or enterprise / commercial), either as raw capacity or turnkey / managed services.
SatCom has historically demonstrated its importance as a piece of broader communications infrastructure during times of crisis due to its several key strengths including independence from terrestrial infrastructure, broad (near-global) coverage/availability, rapid deployment capability, scalability and general reliability, amongst others. The immediate benefits SatCom satellites bring (e.g. provision of connectivity, bridging the digital divide of rural populations, strategic importance of telecommunications for warfighting, etc.) have pushed governments around the world to invest in the sector over the years. Access to digital information / the internet is also increasingly considered as a basic human right, pushing governments to invest. Despite the decrease observed in global government investments in SatCom in recent years, the role of governments in SatCom is expected to remain significant in coming years, notably as the SatCom industry contributes to bridging the digital divide with the upcoming massive addition of supply (provided by Very High Throughput Satellites and NGSO constellations). While the commercial satcom industry and client base is mature, government actors nevertheless remain key satcom stakeholders. This article focuses on the institutional civil and military aspects of satcom.
The SatCom sector is currently in the midst of a transformational phase driven by the confluence of several market and technology forces which have created turbulence across the industry. In coming years, an ever-evolving market is expected to push industry players to continue to adapt in order to be better positioned to compete in an increasingly challenging environment and to offer new communications capabilities and services to governments. On the market side, greater data usage and connectivity anywhere and anytime will drive demand; on the technology side, rapid technological change such as flat panel antennas and enhanced payload flexibility, along with new LEO constellations such as SpaceX’s Starlink and Telesat’s Lightspeed will dramatically increase capacity supply. Some constellations including Telesat Lightspeed are targeting the milsatcom market. However, the operational adoption of these systems is expected to take some years after its launch. Military users typically require time to test new technology and certify new terminals. One of the major value-added features these constellations provide is coverage allowing high-quality communication links in high latitudes, solving connectivity issues in the Arctic region.
SatCom sector: forces of market pull and technology push
Government Investments in Satellite Communications
Euroconsult calculates that global government investments in Satcom in 2020 totalled just under US$6 billion. This represents a nearly continuous downward trend over the last decade, from the 2010 peak of $9.5 billion.
Government investments in Satcom, Civil vs Defence, in $USD millions
Government civil and defence-related satcom spending exhibit two very different trends. While civil spending has remained largely flat and averaging about $2.5 billion over the decade, the cyclical defence spending has halved from the 2010 peak of $7.6 billion to 2021’s $3.8 billion. Government civil investments in Satcom typically represent the first or second space-related investments by emerging space powers, due to the relatively low cost of the systems, the immediate benefits they bring in providing connectivity and bridging the digital divide of rural populations, and the fact that they can often serve dual-use purposes, providing benefits to government civil as well as defence users. Countries with larger rural populations or challenging terrain (for example Indonesia’s archipelago or Myanmar’s densely jungled and hilly terrain) often favour telecommunications by satellite, since it is often more cost-effective than building out terrestrial networks. In addition to this, excess capacity can be commercialized to generate revenues, although the increasing availability of capacity on the markets and decreasing costs results in challenges to business cases and revenue generation.
Leading space powers often decrease substantially their investments in civilian satcom over time, as the private sector typically has the technological capacity and can generate sufficient revenues to enter this market and provide services without government assistance. Civilian government investments in these cases typically focus on R&D to support cutting-edge technology developments, for example laser communications, satellite-to-satellite in-space networks, quantum technology, and so on.
Both leading and emerging governments invest heavily in defence-related satcom, due to the strategic importance of telecommunications for warfighting or force-projection capabilities, in arenas where terrestrial networks do not exist or cannot guarantee the security of the transmissions. As such, defence-related satcom government expenditures have been consistently higher than civil over the past decade.
A key characteristic of defence satcom investments are their cyclical nature, as MoDs invest in new systems, then exploit current systems, before kickstarting another upcycle as they invest in next-gen systems. As emerging countries typically procure smaller systems in a one-off procurement, the long-term, multi-annual defence satcom spending cycles typically reflects spending by leading space powers, including notably the US, Russia, and China. Indeed, looking forward over the next decade, we see that institutional defence spending in satcom is entering a renewed investment phase in 2021, with budgets trending upwards until the middle of the decade, before a downcycle period begins again. Major upcoming programs include the US’ Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) constellation, soon to be replaced by the Evolved Strategic Satellite Communications (ESS) program, and the Wideband Global Satellite (WGS) system, with the 11th satellite to be launched in 2023. In March 2020, the US Space Force issued a contract solicitation to commercial operators to support the architecture for its Vision for Enterprise Satellite Communications, a single, seamless system to ensure global operations integrating both commercial and military capabilities. The US military policy is also evolving towards a decentralized, constellation-based approach to increase secured satcom capabilities resiliency, as evidenced by recent discussions between the US military and SpaceX’s Starlink constellation. Similar policy evolutions are likely occurring in governments around the world.
The Russian MoD spends just under 25% of its budget on secured satcom capabilities. Communications satellites prevail in the total number of military satellites in orbit, as Russia maintains communication systems in GEO, Molniya and LEO orbits, with regular launches to replace retiring satellites. Programs include the Integrated Satellite Communications System and Blagovest. The Chinese program is very opaque, but it is estimated that at least 25% of the country’s satcom capacity is reserved for defence purposes, including its ChinaSat satellites and Tianlian series of data relay satellites, which are being upgraded to 2nd generation over the next decade. The country has also announced LEO satcom constellations, which will likely also have a defense component to increase.
Milsatcom Landscape and Trends
The world’s security challenges are becoming more complex. Traditional conflicts and instabilities in hotspot regions are increasingly joined by so-called “hybrid” threats, characterised by a range of hostile and subversive activities by state- and non-state actors. Cyber-attacks are increasing in number and severity, posing security risks to societies, infrastructure and governments. States undertaking foreign security operations require autonomous communication systems that are permanently accessible, independent from local conditions and power structures. They need to function under stress, in hostile environments and during conflicts, and must be resilient against attacks, from cyberattacks to jamming and disruption. Secure satcom is an indispensable tool for governmental security actors, such as police, border guards, fire fighters, and civilian and military crisis managers. It allows for guaranteed and secure communication capabilities in areas where local ground-based networks have been damaged, do not exist, or are insufficiently secure.
A key driver is the number of countries investing in proprietary military satellite communications systems (whether standalone satellites or reserved capacity aboard third-party satellites). It has expanded sharply in recent years and is projected to reach upward of 24 countries by 2024, from a base of just 11 in 2006. This will lead to a doubling in proprietary military satellite capacity supply from 2019 to 2024, as network-centric communications have cemented their role as a key pillar of modern military doctrine and operations.
Military and defence organizations globally are equipping an ever-growing range and number of assets deployed in land, sea and air operations. The expeditionary deployment of land troops remains the leading driver of demand for satellite communications in the military segment. UAVs are expected to be a strong growth driver over the coming decade, as the number of airframes ordered is rising dramatically, and as they become increasingly capacity-hungry as capabilities (i.e. high-res, real-time video) and sensors increase. Maritime represents the third pillar driving growth, with an estimated 7,000 military and 4,000 civil coast guard in-service vessels globally, all requiring secured satcom capacity.
Global military demand for satellite capacity increased by an estimated 27% to approximately 40 Gbps in 2020, confirming the observed trend of the past three years after several years of stagnation. The increase of threats in the Middle East, China area and Northeast Asia in recent years, and the adoption of HTS systems in military bases (in particular, O3b), notably by US forces, explains this recent boost in demand. Plans presented by the previous U.S. administration in 2018 and the creation of the Space Force as the sixth branch of the military force suggested a potential increase in military and intelligence deployments in the coming years. Although the US DoD remains the largest user of secured satcom capability, other significant military users include major European countries such as the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain and international organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Terrorist attacks and geopolitical issues have forced larger entanglements for these countries in external operations, particularly in Africa. Although Russia and China have military satellite communication requirements, public information is limited in this respect. Proprietary or dual-use systems are known, but there is no visibility on contracts with commercial satellite operators. We assume that these countries have limited use of these systems, as most of the demand is for national satellite systems.
Overall, this highlights that the success of many military activities depends on satellite communications. In an increasingly complex and challenging environment, and with the expected technological advances in satellite communications services, satellite is expected to remain as important as ever for military and defence organizations in coming years.
Military Satellite Communications, Capacity demand by force type
Simon Seminari is a Principal Advisor at Euroconsult since 2017. He leads the analysis of government space policies and programs, with a focus on space program management, public policy assessment, and socio-economic impact assessments.
Simon has overall responsibility for Euroconsult’s consulting missions for government and institutional clients. He has conducted market studies, new emerging technology analysis, space policy assessments and other studies for clients including the European Commission, the European Space Agency, the European Defence Agency, and national space agencies such as the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
Simon holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from McGill University, and an Advanced Master’s Degree in EU International Relations from the College of Europe in comparative space policy analysis.
The Migration to HTS in GEO and Non-GEO in Gov & Mil Markets
Brad Grady, Principal Analyst, NSR
According to NSR’s Government and Military Satellite Communications Market (GMSC), 17th Edition study, the market for commercial satellite connectivity in the Government and Military sector was approximately $6.4 Billion in 2019 increasing to over $11 Billion by 2029 for equipment and services. Driven largely by the Aeronautical segments for manned and unmanned applications, the need for ISR requirements across the GovMil enterprise continues to drive the demand for satellite connectivity to higher and higher rates. Within the market, the transition from, FSS to HTS, GEO to Non-GEO, and largely US Gov-centric play to increased roles for Non-US opportunities, are creating new revenue opportunities at sea, on land, and in the air. However, with the widespread emphasis on COVID-19 relief and emergency spending at present, beyond 2025, challenges could arise in budgets and spending priorities. Overall, the market is poised to grow at 5.7 % CAGR between 2019 and 2029 adding more than $4.7 Billion in new retail revenues to the Space and Satellite markets.
The market is, however, more than top-line revenue figures. Underneath these curves is a current of change – new MILSATCOM systems coming online bring new sovereign capabilities, new orbits from commercial providers changing the connectivity paradigm, and a greater introduction of ‘as-a-service’ model throughout the Government and Military connectivity enterprise. Already, planners at organizations like the US Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center are looking at how to leverage these disparate systems and networks to utilize each of their unique capabilities to increase connectivity at the edge. The US Airforce Research Lab (AFRL) has recent awarded ViaSat a $50M contract to help integrate commercial satellite communications (COMSATCOM) with Military Satellite Communications (MILSATCOM) and deliver a ‘unified connectivity experience.’ Moreover, at present, Starlink is undergoing trials with the US Government, SES’s O3b continues to expand their services with Government and Military customers, and Iridium renewed their Enhanced Mobile Satellite Services (EMSS) contract to include higher-throughput Certus-based products. All told, it is an exciting time for the commercial satellite industry to engage, collaborate, and do business within the Gov & Mil marketplace.
The HTS Migration is Real.
Long promised, but only recently ‘actually deployed’, the migration to HTS systems and networks on a throughput basis is happening. In 2019, according to data from NSR’s GMSC 17th Edition, FSS demand across C/Ku/Ka/X-bands for Gov & Mil customers stood at 26 Gbps of throughput – mostly in FSS Ku-band to support Aeronautical applications (or roughly 190 TPEs of widebeam FSS Ku-band). HTS in 2019 was 16 Gbps. Move forward to 2021 and HTS is +4 Gbps over FSS (33 Gbps FSS vs. 37 Gbps HTS) and by 2024 that delta is projected to be +100 Gbps in favor of HTS. By 2029, it is projected to more than +780 Gbps in favor of HTS-based architectures. While FSS Gbps demand will double from 2019 to 2029 (26 Gbps to 63 Gbps), the real story is the adoption and acceleration of HTS-centric demand.
Why does this migration ‘really matter’? Simply, the engagement model on a technical and business basis between Gov & Mil End-users and Service Provider / Satellite Operator is at play here. On a technical basis, the narrow/spot-beam architecture of HTS networks enables satellite operators and service providers ‘greater insights’ into the geographic location of terminals (and therefore Gov & Mil troops and equipment). It requires greater information on end-user terminal capabilities, needs careful resource allocation on the spacecraft and ground segment networks, and a host of other very practical technical considerations. Security issues, however, are the largest consideration for Gov & Mil customers (and one of the largest differentiators between commercial and government customers), and have been the traditional hold-ups for the migration from FSS to HTS-based network designs.
Today, investments on the commercial side to prove beam handoffs in commercial aviation markets, coupled with advancements in virtualization, and network segmentation capabilities are de-risking adoption of HTS-based network designs for Gov & Mil markets. Price and throughput capabilities do not hurt either. As we saw in the early days of high-end commercial markets, HTS has reached ‘maturity’ to point where the migration from GEO-FSS to GEO-HTS seems minimal compared to the multi-band, multi-orbit, multi-owner Gov & Mil networks of the future.
Non-GEO HTS is the real ‘elephant in the room’ – and the one where the business model between service provider and Gov & Mil end-user is very much in play. Largely, the question is just how will customers such as the US Government purchase and integrate these highly complex systems into their next-generation network designs? If terminals are supposed to be able to roam ‘at-will’ across sovereign MILSATCOM and COMSATCOM Non-GEO HTS networks such as mPower/Starlink/LightSpeed/OneWeb/Kuiper/etc., how should the commercial service agreements work to enable such capabilities? This is one area where technology is very much ahead of the business models that make such capabilities appealing to both industry and ultimately, to those Gov & Mil personnel tasked with justifying the expenses of new technology and capabilities.
For Iridium, the solution was ‘simple’ resulting in the US Government building a ground-station of there own and the creation of a fixed-price, “unlimited user” contract via the US Government’s Enhanced Mobile Satellite Services (EMSS). Renewed in 2019 to the tune of $738M over a 7-year period, the contract enables a wide range of US Gov devices to leverage the Iridium network without much information about the exact location/owner/user ‘spilling over’ outside “Government-approved systems”. More importantly, it allows the ‘turn it on and it works’ capabilities Gov & Mil customers currently talk about introducing in the broadband-VSAT markets.
The Business Models Ahead in a “Any-(band/orbit/owner)” Paradigm
The VSAT-frequency markets (C/Ku/Ka/X) already have a similar, albeit not unlimited ‘user/terminal’-based, model which NSR calls Bulk Leasing (also known as Transponded Capacity.) Largely a US-Government play, opportunities for bulk leasing will grow from $290M in 2019 to over $650M in 2029. When compared to the $3B+ market opportunity within in Land-Mobile and within Airborne Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), it is easy to skip over this revenue segment, yet it represents the second-fastest growing revenue opportunity behind Maritime applications. More importantly, in the world of “any-band, from any-orbit, owned by anyone” network designs talked in Gov & Mil planning documents it is hard to think that bulk leasing will play a “decreasing role” by 2029.
Largely, this acceleration of the contribution of Bulk Leasing engagement models is driven by Non-GEO HTS. There is no doubt that the large percentage of revenues across GEO & Non-GEO will be under a traditional ‘managed services model’ whereby service providers enable connectivity to terminals that they help manage and support. Most countries today do not operate their own MILSATCOM systems. They do not have complex operational requirements of gathering sensor data across a range of airborne, land or maritime-based assets that must be processed out of theatre and pushed back to a disadvantaged terminal (i.e. small aperture antennas with limited transmit/receive power) to a dismounted solider or on a mobile vehicle. Most ‘use-cases’ for Satellite Connectivity requirements are largely connected to this platform, those sites, and these soldiers operating in the field. However, there is no doubt that more data is required in more places and that there are more challenges to get from point A to point B in Gov & Mil operations.
Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR), and its derivate acronyms is not the sole domain of large, well-funded nation-states anymore. Virtualization of network functions, ‘cheaper’ access to space-based infrastructure, and the lower cost of RF-jamming/detection/denial are all driving forces increasing the complexity of Gov & Mil networks. Add the complexity of Non-GEO HTS services in the ‘any-XXX’ network designs of the most sophisticated Gov & Mil end-users and the engagement models between end-users and the satellite value-chain is poised to experience some shifts.
Bottom Line: The Asia-Pacific Angle
Given the significant and persistent focus over the past decade on the Middle East and Africa region, it is easy to discount the infamous ‘Asia-Pivot’ doctrine which came to prominence in the early 2010s. At only 23% of Gbps demand in 2019 (~ 9.6 Gbps from FSS + HTS), Asia and the Pacific Ocean Regions are not such a ‘happening market’ for Gov & Mil connectivity as compared to the Middle East and Africa. However, the region is expected to grow to over 260+ Gbps of demand by 2029 – or 29% of the total Gbps market demand. The Middle East and Africa together with the Indian Ocean Region falls from 38% to 27% of overall demand from 2019 to 2029, or 15 Gbps to around 250 Gbps of demand in 2029. In short, Asia-Pacific markets are more than the rapid acceleration of capabilities or requirements that the market saw in the troop surges in Iraq & Afghanistan, but rather a longer-term shift by US and other regional-players.
Under these curves of Gbps demand for COMSATCOM are two-fold a migration towards Non-GEO HTS connectivity and with that bulk leasing will become a significant source of capacity leasing in Gov & Mil Markets. Retail revenues will continue to favor end-to-end managed services, particularly for ISR-centric Manned and Unmanned Aeronautical platforms. However, in a market where those plays will be increasingly subjected to budgetary pressures on defense spending and network designs which are starting to remove the ‘end to end’ focus of network connectivity Bulk Leasing can provide an interesting engagement model for these existing and emerging Non-GEO HTS systems.
Bottom Line: NSR projects a resurgence and re-exploration of the roles between Gov & Mil customer and connectivity provider. New Technologies in space and on the ground, combined with changing operational demands are causing shifts in the engagement models of the largest Gov & Mil customers in the market. Who, how quickly, and details around the “what” remain undecided. With that said, there should be little doubt that there is money in Asia-Pacific Gov & Mil markets – unlocking it will continue to be a challenging and complex process for players across the Space and Satellite Value-Chain.
Brad Grady has been involved in the Satellite Communications industry since 2005, joining NSR in 2010. Through his 10 years at NSR, he has risen from a Junior Analyst to NSR’s Principal Analyst for Mobility Markets, focusing on Commercial and Government SATCOM Markets. In that role, he leads NSR’s research on “anything that moves.” He leads a group of NSR Analysts focused on Aeronautical and Land-Mobile opportunities, and authors NSR’s Maritime SATCOM Markets, Energy SATCOM Markets, and Government and Military Satellite Communications. He regularly provides his insights and analysis to NSR’s single-client consulting practice, and is also a regular contributor to leading industry publications and forums.
Gaining the Operational Advantage
Koen Willems, Head International Government Strategy, ST Engineering iDirect
How do you translate innovative satcom technology into an operational advantage? This is a key question for many Asian countries in the face of COVID-19 and increasing regional tensions. In this article, ST Engineering iDirect’s Head of International Government Strategy, Koen Willems sets out a roadmap towards information assurance, seamless operations, agility, maximum situational awareness and strategic advantage and demonstrates how speed of innovation equals successful operations when executed in a rigid and reliable way.
(Credit: ST Engineering iDirect)
Despite a turbulent and completely unprecedented 12 months with economies hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, defense spending has continued to increase in the Asian region. The Military Balance report, produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, noted that global defense spending increased by 3.9% to US$1.83 trillion despite the economic downturn that has affected countries across the world.
Geopolitical tensions in the Asian region are stoking this increased defense spend. Countries such as China, India, Australia, New Zealand are looking to increase their capabilities, but so are smaller countries such as Vietnam, Singapore, the Philippines, Bangladesh Indonesia and South Korea in response to territorial tensions and to increase their overall security. However, governments are also looking to create more opportunity for social inclusion, to aid government-run businesses and also to bolster Universal Service Obligation (USO)-funded projects to grow state infrastructure and to respond to social needs – something that has been magnified significantly through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Governments must be prepared, both in peacetime and wartime, and therefore the requirement to put the appropriate systems into place is perennial. Surveillance, imagery, communication and navigation capabilities and the ability to connect headquarters to regional command centers, surveillance centers and outposts are essential. Then there is the capability to support different operations that are both fixed and mobile such as UAV platforms, missile systems and forces operating on land, at sea and in the air.
The Government and Defense market has always relied on satellite communications, and this is only set to increase in the future. Mordor Intelligence projects a CAGR of 6.9% in the period between 2020 and 2025. Satcoms are used across the breadth of the defense industry, right across the world. From surveillance and tracking to remote sensing and disaster recovery, satellite is essential in enabling government and defense organizations to see the bigger picture and to access connectivity in the most remote and hostile regions of the world.
The commercial satellite sector is a critical source of bandwidth, products and services for Defense users who are looking for high performance and efficiency. As nations look to build satellite networks or replace decommissioned satellites, new programs provide the opportunity to adopt the latest satellite and ground segment technologies and find the right mix of capacity types to give them the operational advantage needed for successful missions. Building coverage and network diversity while guaranteeing the latest military-grade security standards, offers nations a high level of redundancy, flexibility and security to meet the needs of a multi-layered, secure and resilient next generation defense network.
(Credit: ST Engineering iDirect)
Such a network can lead to information assurance by getting information quicker and at higher quality and granularity and by making sure an adversary has not blocked or intercepted that information. Advanced security standards, specialized enclosures, national waveforms and other improvements have been created for defense organizations to better their operations. The commercial satellite sector has also undergone an immense transformation, with highly efficient waveforms for greater performance, very high throughput satellites (VHTS), new non-geostationary (NGSO) constellations, network integration across access technologies and other key innovations. Defense agencies must harness all these innovations to ensure operational advantage at all times. They must plan now for their next-generation, secure and resilient network that will guarantee success in their most critical operations.
In order to gain an operational advantage, a flexible, multi-layered, secure network must be established. This can be achieved through the adoption of innovative and emerging satellite and ground segment technologies to create the most effective mix for different missions.
Dynamic Coverage: Connectivity Anytime, Anywhere
Coverage must be dynamic enough to meet the diverse needs of regions and global deployments and this could involve a combination of sovereign and allied satellite capacity on commercial and military satellites to facilitate different connectivity requirements. With dynamic coverage, military organizations can ensure critical operations run smoothly, whether they require low bandwidth at a fixed location or high-bandwidth rates on the move.
When planning their capacity, military network operators should look for a satellite platform that can handle dispersed operations’ network complexity with a mix of capacities and global connectivity to fixed, on-the-move (OTM) and on-the-pause (OTP) assets. The ideal platform should allow military network operators to customize their connectivity networks to efficiently optimize bandwidth and prioritize critical applications while ensuring continuity of service to provide a seamless end-user experience.
(Credit: ST Engineering iDirect)
Providing Maximum Performance and Efficiency for Information Superiority
Information superiority is key in military operations. Massive amounts of data are sent back and forth across military networks to provide instant situational awareness for intelligent decision-making. Bandwidth-hungry applications such as ISR video and sensors consume tremendous capacity on the satellite transponder. Strategic communications — as well as demands from emerging 5G, machine-to-machine (M2M) and Internet of Military Things (IoMT) sensors and devices — will further increase bandwidth consumption. Military network operators will need to employ the latest VSAT and waveform technology advances to maximize throughput and efficiency.
They can do that by making sure their satellite and ground segment technologies work hand in hand. Although considerable focus is placed on the impact of new NGSO satellite constellations, an innovative VSAT platform is also essential to ensure ongoing adaptability to changing environments and to achieve higher spectral efficiency and throughputs at maximum service availability.
Agility: One Platform for Multiple Applications
Military leaders want better, quicker, more detailed and continuous information to make informed decisions, maneuver more swiftly and always gain the tactical upper hand. This operational superiority can be best achieved by combining network performance with flexibility: in other words, by deploying anywhere, anytime and by connecting concurrent operations to a centrally managed satellite network.
A truly agile network can respond to changes in operations quickly and effortlessly. This means a network operator can quickly groom capacity and reconfigure their satcom network for quick redeployments with the latest innovative features onboard the VSAT platform. Software-defined modems increase flexibility by supporting over-the-air upgrades, seamless compatibility for new capabilities and easy configuration for new operations.
(Credit: ST Engineering iDirect)
Security and Resiliency
The defense sector in particular is a prime target for both cybersecurity threats and intentional and unintentional signal interference. With the digitalization of the battlefield has come increased risk. Security systems must therefore have the capability to predict, detect, prevent and mitigate the mix of threats that could hamper operations.
For interference detection, a network management system, spectrum monitoring and geolocation services can identify potential threats. A spectrum monitoring solution can further detect any anomalies by pooling together bandwidth and comparing current conditions against a defined carrier plan. Geolocation can determine the latitude and longitude of an interfering signal and provide actionable intelligence by isolating and characterizing the source of interference.
When a security threat occurs, a proper mitigation response is needed. Signal excision technology and network diversity can help users swiftly leverage another network capacity to ensure persistent communications.
For prevention of future threats, transmission security (TRANSEC) and information assurance capabilities can ensure that systems remain resilient. TRANSEC technology keeps communications, and ultimately military operations, safe and secure as they transmit sensitive data over the airwaves.
Finally, prediction of future interferences and threats can be done by evaluating and understanding network activities, looking at historical data and ensuring rapid response to adjust for any inconsistencies.
(Credit: ST Engineering iDirect)
Joint Operations Support
For military organizations, it can be essential to share intelligence and information across government organizations, with partners and with allied governments during joint operations. Interoperability is a key enabler for the conduct of effective, collaborative, multiservice military operations across a wide range of scenarios.
Pooling and sharing satellite platforms built around a centrally managed network system can provide more flawless connectivity to regional or global operations across different nations’ military agencies during a joint operation. Interoperability can be achieved when different nations use a common waveform standard (such as DVB-S2X) or the same military waveform (such as the European Protected Waveform).
Ease of Use
Expertise for satellite communications is becoming less common among military agencies in several nations, and not every operation can afford to send a satellite communications engineer on every deployment. However, with each layer of complexity, the VSAT networks that many military organizations are building stand at an increased risk for security breaches or mistakes that could create satellite interference and potentially hamper operations. In most cases, the human factor is the weakest link in the security chain.
The quicker a terminal is up and running, the quicker deployed military personnel can focus on their core operational tasks. Terminals optimized for size, weight and power (SWaP) for ease of portability as well as rapidly deployable flyaway terminals are ideal for OTM and OTP applications. Remote commissioning tools allow a warfighter to point and set up the VSAT terminal through a comprehensive graphical user interface (GUI) and automated pointing procedures available on a PC or mobile device. After the terminal is pointed accurately, the network, autocommissioning and authentication management will take over automatically and provide internet connectivity in a matter of minutes. This process ensures each terminal performs optimally, thus maximizing efficiency and reducing interference and implementation risks.
Ready to evolve
At ST Engineering iDirect, we are pioneering a future that will see a multi-layered security and resiliency networking platform. Our platform can connect to different sources of satellite capacity whether they are sovereign or allied military bandwidth, governmental or commercial capacity or services, regardless of orbit and enable multi-layered security and resiliency to provide redundancy in case of interference or jamming, paired with the latest security technologies.
With so much evolution happening within and outside of the satcom industry, technology providers must ensure that they provide the high performance, highly secure defense networks that are so critical today, but to have one foot firmly in the future to ensure that we are agile and ready to evolve with our customers’ networks whenever they are ready.
Koen Willems has +20 years’ experience working in different technology industries. Before joining ST Engineering iDirect (Europe) CY n.v. (formerly known as Newtec) he was Product Marketing Manager for Europe at the electronics giant TOSHIBA. Currently Koen holds the position of Head of International Government Market & Strategy with focus on the global government, defense and humanitarian satcom markets at ST Engineering. In this role Mr. Willems is in charge of developing and defining the strategy for the government and defense market worldwide for ST Engineering as well as supporting large programs. More recently Koen received the degree for ‘High Studies in Security and Defence’ at the Belgian Royal Higher Institute for Defence as well as the degree for the SERA program (European Session for Armament Officials) which focusses on European defence acquisition regulation, challenges and procedures at the French National Institute of Higher Defense in Paris.
A Paradigm Shift: Military Communications over Non-Geostationary Satellite Constellations
Tom Cox, Vice President, Business Development & Sales, Wavestream Corporation
Governments across the world have employed the use of satellite communications across Geosynchronous satellites dating back to the 1960s. In the last 20 years, the amount of traffic that the government users pass across satellites has skyrocketed from around 1-2 GBPS in 2001 to around 30 GBPS in 2020.
That trend is expected to not only continue but to explode. NSR projects that MILSATCOM will grow to more than 480 GBPS by 2028 – more than 10x what is used today.
At the same time that the need for bandwidth is growing, the threat to military satellite communications, or MILSATCOM, satellites is also growing. Several nation states have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to eavesdrop, jam, harass, manipulate, and potentially even shut down the most vital portion of these networks – the satellites themselves. By employing a number of techniques both on the ground and in space, adversaries in a conflict have the ability to disable the critical communications that takes place between tactical users and their command structures of their enemies.
GEO Satellites are Big, Juicy Targets
General John Hyten, former head of US Strategic Command and now Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Department of Defense, is famously quoted as saying that he “won’t support the development any further of large, big, fat, juicy targets”, referring to the large GEO satellites that take years (and vast sums of money) to develop, launch and deploy, be they military or commercial in nature.
GEN John Hyten, Vice Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks at the 2017 Halifax International Security Forum. Credit: Spacenews
While High Throughput Satellites (HTS) and Very-High Throughput Satellites (VHTS) in GEO orbit will always play a critical role in military and government communications – primarily as data backhaul and broad distribution systems – it is very likely that many critical data links will migrate away from these constellations and towards more resilient and robust Non-Geostationary Orbit (NGSO) constellations.
The Benefits of NGSO Constellations
The closer to the battle edge a military unit gets, the more critical the communications become on a moment-to-moment basis. Losing the only connection to headquarters via satellite can make a real difference in an active conflict. In the case of GEO satellites, the adversary needs only target one chokepoint – the satellite itself – to disrupt the communications infrastructure for a fighting force.
If, however, military units are able to access multiple satellites in multiple NGSO constellations, their adversary’s ability to harass, jam, or degrade their communications network becomes significantly smaller. The sheer number of satellites required to create ubiquitous coverage over a geographical area range from a handful in High Earth Orbit (HEO), to a dozen in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), to hundreds or even thousands in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). This means the adversary must impact not one, but dozens or even hundreds of satellites simultaneously.
SpaceX Starlink (US) has deployed more than 1,000 satellites to date, and SES O3b mPower (Luxembourg) is on station, with 11 new MEO satellites planned to launch in 2021. NGSO broadband constellations are in development by OneWeb (UK/India), Honyan (China), Amazon Kuiper (US), Telesat Lightspeed (Canada), and potentially dozens of others in the planning stages, each planning global reach of their constellations. At least one company, Mangata Networks (US), is planning to develop a hybrid architecture that would be designed specifically for one geographical region – a model that would serve the AsiaPac region well.
And these are just the commercially available networks. At some point it stands to reason that governments will begin to launch NGSO constellations of their own. Indeed, the US has been working to launch a NGSO constellation to test the merits of use in a battlefield environment. The DARPA project called “Blackjack” has already awarded Blue Canyon Technologies a contract to develop and launch 20 satellites to test various technologies ahead of the military-grade mega-constellation being developed by the newly formed Space Development Agency. The US Army has also said that they want to be actively operating on MEO constellations in the 2025-2027 timeframe.
Blue Canyon Technologies is using the 150-kilogram X-SAT bus for DARPA’s Blackjack program. Credit: Blue Canyon Technologies.
The benefits of NGSO constellations in military networks extends beyond just resiliency. NGSO satellites are closer to the ground, therefore the latency typically experienced with GEO satellites (around 500 milliseconds round-trip) would be reduced to around 100 milliseconds on average, meaning that latency-sensitive applications would be more realistic to operate via satellite, such as drone / UAV remote control and real-time data collaboration activities.
Additionally, NGSO constellations allow for smaller aperture antennas to connect with the satellites, meaning tactical users no longer need to lug around trailer-mounted SATCOM equipment and deploy very obvious parabolic reflectors. And consider that these very small – in some cases 30 cm. in diameter – user terminals will generate hundreds of megabits per second of throughput as compared to the 5-10MBPS military links using 2.4M antennas get today.
Starlink User Terminal. Credit: Erc X @ErcXspace via Twitter.
Finally, a significant advantage of several new NGSO constellations being deployed is their spectral efficiency. Many new constellations are cramming more bits per second (BPS) per Hertz (Hz) of frequency, or BPS/Hz, than ever before. Typical satellite links pass 1-3 BPS/Hz, whereas these new constellations are striving for 6, 7, and even 8 BPS/Hz. The more BPS/Hz, the more data per satellite that can be passed.
The Downsides of NGSO Constellations
While NGSO constellations will certainly provide significant benefits to military users – especially tactical users – these benefits will come with some new challenges.
By far the biggest challenge is the fact that these satellites move – and in most cases relatively quickly – across the sky. That means that the user terminals need to be able to track the satellites as they move from one horizon to the other. Using a parabolic reflector to do this would require a rather expensive positioner like the ones currently used for Comms-on-the-Move (COTM) military applications. Current COTM terminals can cost 10x that of a non-tracking Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT).
SATCOM-on-the-Move terminal built for military applications. Credit: General Dynamics Mission Systems.
Additionally, the terminal will need to be able to switch from one satellite to the next simultaneously to avoid dropping the network connection. This requires either a phased array antenna capable of communicating in two directions simultaneously, or two antennas side-by-side. Otherwise, the terminal will have a multi-second network drop every time it has to leave one satellite and acquire another every 20 minutes or so.
And unless the user intends to carry around a separate modem for each network, a new global open standard for virtualizing the functionality of a satellite modem is needed so that waveforms can be easily ported as software files to a common hardware device. This is how the adoption of the 5G open standard for terrestrial networks is being implemented around the world. Unfortunately, we are already starting to see some companies create closed, proprietary solutions for virtualizing multiple waveforms, which is just as bad as the problem it attempts to solve. Creating a single gatekeeper that charges a toll for every waveform implemented decimates innovation and destroys value for the end users.
Finally, the spectral efficiency of these new constellations will require that the RF subsystems be designed to provide the cleanest signal possible. This means the RF subsystems used in current systems won’t be high enough quality to maximize the throughput of these new constellations. At Wavestream, we have been working for years to optimize the Error Vector Magnitude, or EVM, of our RF products in order to meet the coming demand for high spectral efficiency satellite networks. Using multiple leading-edge techniques, we have developed RF products for Gateway and Edge terminals that make these very high order modulation schemes being considered by NGSO operators possible. We believe this is the area of greatest growth in our industry as bandwidth demand grows exponentially and pricing pressure moves downward.
Comparison of uncorrected vs. corrected gain flatness and distortion, leading to higher spectral efficiency. Credit: Wavestream.
The Very Bright Future of NGSO Military Networks
Multiple satellite constellations in varying orbits. Credit: Thales.
Ultimately the 2020s will be the decade we saw a global shift from GEO to NGSO constellations being the primary link for tactical users at the edge of their military networks. GEO satellites, especially new HTS and VHTS satellites, will absolutely continue to play a critical role in military communications, primarily for backhaul between theater command posts and headquarters as well as broadcast of high-bandwidth data to multiple domains. But the technical and price advantages of NGSO will ultimately carry the day for tactical edge users.
The technical challenges ahead – especially on the end user terminal front – are not insignificant, however they are manageable with time and money invested by the industry that serves our warfighters and peacekeepers.
The resiliency, redundancy, anti-jam capabilities of these networks will leave global military satellite networks in a far less precarious environment we currently find ourselves today. And the opportunities to communicate more data more effectively with less latency and smaller terminals will further reduce the material burden on users as militaries around the world become more and more expeditionary in nature.
Tom Cox is the Vice President of Business Development & Sales at Wavestream Corporation. He leads the sales, marketing, product management and strategy activities for the company. Tom has nearly 25 years’ experience in the Satellite Communications industry, starting as a Satellite Controller in the US Army. Tom has held roles in Engineering, Product Management, Innovation, and Business Development, and founded two startups. Tom has an MBA from Georgia State University and studied Nuclear Engineering at the University of Maryland.
Interview with Phil Carrai, President of the Space, Training and Cybersecurity Division, Kratos Defense and Security Solutions, Inc.
We’ve heard much in the press about Chinese and Russian advances in counterspace capabilities, how do you see this impacting business?
The growing proliferation of space and large constellations of commercial and government satellites is driving the need for rapid location, identification, discrimination, and attribution of space-borne objects. We are seeing increased demand and greater acceptance of commercially provided Space Domain Awareness (SDA). Allied nations are looking for help in building and augmenting their own national picture, and in enabling collaboration with the U.S. government. Given that nations are being challenged in multi-domains, commercially provided SDA data is a cost-effective and rapid way to enhance space situational awareness. This could also be a business opportunity for commercial satellite service providers to cooperate with local government organizations by provide relevant situational awareness data.
Today, space has become a seamless part of many military and civilian activities. The advantages the United States holds in space capabilities will drive some nations to improve their abilities to access and operate in space. Moreover, some actors will seek counterspace capabilities that target the United States and allied reliance on space, including the ability to use secure satellite communications, precision strike capabilities, and ISR assets. Globally, the space industry will continue to expand as technological and cost barriers fall and international partnerships for joint production grow. How is your company approaching business in the Asia-Pacific area?
We realize that nations in this region and around the world want to develop internal capabilities supporting the space domain. We believe the free nations will benefit from deeper national capabilities all working together and we are focused on supporting U.S. objectives of making space mirror the cooperation traditionally employed in other domains. Additionally, Kratos is also working to help allied nations develop their indigenous space expertise. For instance, in Australia we have established Kratos Australia which brings employment opportunities for Australian Space experts who can provide local support to Australian government missions, but also who have reach back to Kratos expertise in US as needed. Our branch office in Singapore provides similar “local” capabilities to support customers in in other parts of the Asia-Pacific region. We also have partnerships in countries like Japan to enable technology transfer and development of local capability to build, deploy and support solutions “locally”.
We are seeing an increased need by many government and commercial companies that want to use and share data with other allied nations to help with their situational awareness. We make available to allies the tools necessary to stand up SDA operations in their own country, augmenting this capability with our own specialized services to address any gaps in coverage.
With the rapid growth of satellite networks, there is the potential for increased Radio Frequency Interference (RFI). This is causing an increased demand for interference monitoring and interference geolocation services. Spectrum and signal monitoring solutions can help to identify authorized and unauthorized signals in the spectrum in real-time and provide detailed errors in the transmission plan on unknown/illegal signals. With a global RF network, data from these monitoring services can be captured and shared through All Domain Operations capabilities and made available to coalition partners.
Japan has long been a well-established space actor and its space activities have historically been entirely non-military in nature. In 2008, Japan passed a law that allowed it to conduct national security-related activities in space. Government officials have begun to publicly speak about developing various space domain awareness capabilities. Are there ways the commercial industry can help the Japanese government strengthen these capabilities?
In today’s contested and congested environment, a complete operational picture of Space Domain Awareness (SDA) is increasingly important. Commercial companies such as Kratos have products and services that help fill in the gaps in today’s resources and provide more actionable insights by monitoring, analyzing and fusing relevant data that enables better strategic decision-making and improved operations for many of our allies.
Ground satellite systems are often proprietary structures that limit interoperability between each other or other terrestrial or cloud networks. Is there technology out there to support an interoperable ground system that both Japan and Australia, as well as other western friendly countries, can utilize that will help them with ongoing situational awareness?
Yes, there is technology that already exists and is operational in the terrestrial world, and a similar approach is being developed for satellite ground networks. You know, early cell phone networks were not always interoperable. The first GSM phones did not support text messaging and it wasn’t until 1999 that texts could finally be exchanged between different networks. But a demand for expanded connectivity led to the current, global cellular infrastructure, and you can now use a cell phone to text in any country.
The advancement of interoperability between different types of networks is still ongoing. With the demand and the adoption of standards, software-defined networks built for the IT industry are being further developed to work in the telecom world. Advanced cloud processing and software defined network attributes used in IT and telecom are now being developed for satellite ground systems for global commercial and military operations.
But, we think that there’s a substantial change that needs to take place from the ground perspective. Not only will there need to be significantly more ground sites to connect software-defined HTS payloads at GEO and MEO and fast-moving LEO satellites due to the simple laws of physics, but satellite ground stations will need to be configured more like terrestrial communication nodes with machine-to-machine operations ensuring the best link to any one satellite at a given place or time.
For example, several efforts sponsored by the U.S. Air Force have successfully demonstrated synchronized access to multiple satellites and satellite networks operated by multiple service providers. Kratos and its partners have shown the ability for satellite ground system to leverage many of the IT/telecom functions. Coalition countries will be able to take advantage of this technology to seamlessly switch between military and commercial SATCOM. The goal is to have global connectivity and interoperability between all domain operations even in environments where one or more signals are denied or degraded.
Phil Carrai is President of the Space, Training and Cybersecurity division of Kratos Defense and Security Solutions, Inc, where he is responsible for all aspects of business operations, sales, mergers and acquisitions. Kratos Defense is an approximately $650 million public company focusing in Aerospace and Defense products and services. Kratos Space, Training and Cybersecurity provides products for satellite signal processing, testing, communications, cybersecurity, in addition to training and simulation products and services. Phil led the acquisitions of DEI (2010), Integral Systems (2011), SecureInfo (2011), BSC (2014) and the integration that followed which transformed the group to be a major provider of specialized products and related services to global commercial and government customers. Previously, he was the CEO of Ai Metrix, a telecommunications software company focused in the defense and commercial markets, which was sold to Kratos Defense in 2006. He is a former Managing Director for the Morino Group and Special Advisor to General Atlantic, Inc. During that period, he served as the Executive Chairman for US mobile media leader Ztango until its sale to Widerthan.com (now part of Real Networks), and an active board member for Internosis, a commercial and federal services provider, until its sale to EMC.