Diminishing military budgets and resources, as well as vast areas of the Pacific Ocean with minimal satellite coverage, are creating an ever-expanding need for bandwidth for the U.S. military. According to a recent Breaking Defense article, Intelsat General hopes to play a significant role in supplying the military with the bandwidth it needs to be mission-effective across the globe. The article features insights from Intelsat General President Kay Sears, who discusses how the company is buying its next-generation, high-throughput Intelsat Epic satellites to help meet this need. The first of six Epic satellites is scheduled to launch in the third quarter of 2015, and will provide four to five times the capacity of conventional commercial satellites and more than three times the bandwidth of a Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite. The article points out that newer commercial satellites are quickly outpacing the technology behind WGS, a constellation conceived more than a decade ago and subject to the military’s slow moving acquisition process. Thanks to the initial COMSATCOM Pathfinder program, there will potentially be a tremendous opportunity for the military to become a regular customer of the Epic satellites. This program is the first-ever request for commercial satellite communications to cover Africa and is the first of five planned Pathfinders that the DoD has mentioned as their initiative for exploring new ways of doing business with commercial satellite operators. The first Pathfinder award has recently been announced. the article also discusses secure waveforms which employ a variety of algorithms that enable a communications link to reliably pass data even in the presence of interference. Presently, the US Air Force is leading a joint, multi-year, effort to improve protected satellite communications called Protected MILSATCOM Design for Affordability Risk Reduction (DFARR). Along with greater affordability, a key deliverable of this effort is the design, development, and validation of a new waveform for forward deployed, protected, tactical use. This effort will also demonstrate compatibility among multiple vendors. Intelsat General is not contracted under the DFARR, but with Air Force approval and witness, IGC and L-3 Communications – Communication West recently tested and demonstrated modems from this effort over commercial satellites. This testing successfully expanded the scope of DFARR and demonstrated its applicability to commercial as well as military satellites. As we move closer to 2015, we will see an expanded need for the right commercial solutions allowing the United States to have the most effective satellite coverage across the globe and the Epic satellites are a prime example of this new frontier. Read more about this next generation of high-throughput satellites.
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