Intelsat and OneWeb supplied broadband internet connectivity to U.S. Army clients via satellites in the low Earth orbit as well as the geostationary orbit in a trial earlier this month. The event at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland was intended to demonstrate to prospective Army customers that the satellite communications from GEO and LEO are not mutually exclusive and can be smoothly integrated.
Intelsat is an international communications company with 52 geostationary satellites orbiting 22,000 miles above equator. OneWeb presently possesses 358 broadband LEO satellites orbiting at an altitude of 750 miles in near-polar orbit planes. Intelsat led the demo of two-way conversation and data downloads in order to show the Army the advantages of purchasing controlled satcom as a service rather than typical military satellite procurements from individual providers.
The partnership between satellite operators and antenna providers, according to Don Claussen, Intelsat’s vice president in charge of the business development, resulted in a smooth service comparable to the cellular communications. “Even though four separate terminals were in-network, working through multiple constellations and gateways,” Claussen told SpaceNews, Intelsat and OneWeb “were able to give a single interface to the end-user.” “Without end-user intervention, we can add and withdraw functionality.”
According to Claussen, GEO and LEO satellite networks automatically switched data flow between orbits, with software determining which connection gave the best choice based on technological needs. “It showed how numerous networks can be smoothly connected so that capabilities are gathered in real-time rather than being switched between.'”
According to him, the program combines everything into a single stream. “It’s crucial how we bring it all together on the backend.” Claussen explained that rather than routing and selecting the best connection present at the moment, “All of that capacity was able to be blended.” For the demonstration, three satellite links were established: one with Galaxy 18, and one with OneWeb constellation.
Intelsat 37, as well as OneWeb each, provide a downlink of about 50 megabits per second. “However, after all of the terminals were up and running, we were getting around 100 megabits per second,” he stated. “We’ll be able to combine all of that traffic.” And since we blend across them, no links were lost when one network went down and the other came back up.”
Four types of terminals were used to communicate with the satellites: Lite Coms, Kymeta U8, SatCube, and OneWeb’s Intellian. Two Intelsat gateways in Georgia, Atlanta, and Fuchsstadt, Germany, were used to route the traffic. OneWeb’s Intellian antennas are connected to the LEO network, downlinking data to the OneWeb gateway and then into Intelsat’s network, according to Claussen. The presentation was also funded by Linchpin Solutions, which is an Army network contractor. The goal of the demonstration, according to Claussen, was to offer the Army a flavor of managed satcom services, even though the Army has yet to specify exactly what it requires or what it intends to acquire.