Intelsat Epic – Building a Superior High-Throughput Satellite Platform
Next month Intelsat will launch IS-33e, the second satellite in the Intelsat Epic high-throughput satellite (HTS) platform. Earlier this year, the launch of the first Epic satellite, IS-29e, provided coverage for the Americas and the North Atlantic shipping lanes. Now the launch of IS-33e will provide a dramatically improved level of satellite connectivity to Intelsat General’s customers in Africa, Europe and Asia.
Moving from today’s SATCOM to HTS is akin to the terrestrial move from dial-up access to broadband. Current U.S. government-operated Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellites deliver approximately 3 Gbps of throughput performance. HTS satellites increase that performance dramatically. But not all HTS platforms are created equal.
Intelsat Epic offers the highest level of HTS performance. Epic outperforms competing HTS systems in three main areas especially critical for government customers – performance, flexibility and resilience.
The military requires massive amounts of satellite bandwidth for its ever-escalating mission of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). Intelsat Epic incorporates spot beams in a high-performance fabric to deliver significantly more capacity per satellite and throughput per unit of spectrum, while retaining the wide coverage of a traditional wide beam satellite. Unlike competing HTS systems, Epic will enable existing Gray Eagle and Reaper ISR platforms to deliver SATCOM data rates of up to 50 Mbps.
Intelsat Epic incorporates multiple smaller spot-beams with high frequency re-use. This design delivers performance, coverages, and connectivities previously not possible. Performance on an Epic satellite is improved not only in bits per second per Hertz, but also in the aggregate MHz available while retaining and the geographic area covered at the scale of traditional satellites.
It’s not just incredible speed that makes Intelsat Epic attractive for government customers. Some upcoming HTS platforms are closed architectures, meaning they dictate the choice of antenna/modem combinations and teleport locations. Epic is an open system, and allows the military to leverage the Ku-band antenna/modem infrastructure already in place for existing UAS systems. This ability to use current ground equipment leads to substantial cost savings for the customer and can be leveraged in many ISR applications to support new light-footprint CONOPS that do not require on-site Ground Control Stations.
In many ways it’s like moving to a new operating system on your computer or phone – a dramatic boost in performance with just a software upgrade – no hardware changes required! With Intelsat Epic, users can purchase dedicated capacity for their terminal or group of terminals. The throughput of that capacity is dedicated and available to only the user’s terminals. As such, maximum throughput capabilities can be guaranteed.
The resiliency of commercial SATCOM is an important issue for government customers. Intelsat Epic introduces a more “hardened” level of commercial SATCOM. Anti-jamming capabilities are greatly enhanced with low-probability of intercept (LPI) and jamming-resilience on Epic satellites, even to non-hopping modems. Interference-mitigation capabilities like on-board power monitoring and notch filtering of interferers/unauthorized users as well as monitoring, re-routing, geo-location and identification of interferers means Epic SATCOM is better protected for deployment in contested environments.
Protected tactical waveform (PTW) is also enabled by Intelsat Epic. PTW will provide cost effective, protected communications over both government and commercial satellites in multiple frequency bands – C-, Ku-, Ka- and X-band. Some of the space-based protection features of PTW over the Epic platform include built-in interference mitigation capabilities and smaller spot beams.
Additional security measures employed by Intelsat General in the terrestrial segment include end-to-end protection and physical security at teleports. IGC has moved to a hardened network infrastructure with systems that are compliant with DoD Directives/Instructions and NIST cybersecurity recommendations, and audited by third-party evaluators for compliance.
HTS represents a quantum leap from the SATCOM of today. It’s vital to understand all the attributes of each new platform and choose the right one. Intelsat Epic offers the most compelling value proposition for government customers and is ready to play a large role in the next generation of U.S. space architecture.