Intelsat General Makes the Defense Systems ‘Super 75’ List

For the U.S. Navy, providing a worldwide communications capability is a highly complex task that requires literally thousands of discrete components.   From satellites to transponders, antennas, RF transmit and receive equipment, terrestrial links, and baseband equipment, maintaining configuration and control of all of these electronic parts requires a complex information infrastructure composed of databases and servers.

Welcome to part two in a series of three posts about Intelsat General’s work on the Navy’s Commercial Broadband Satellite Program (CBSP), where we undertook the creation of a worldwide command and control system to provision, control, monitor and display the entire operation.   This week’s post will focus on how we helped the Navy manage the coordination and control of its vast communications network under the CBSP.

The Navy’s use of commercial satellite communications is a massive endeavor with 150 ships, 7 teleports, 16 antennas, 108 modems, 408 terrestrial communications ports, and roughly 70 configuration parameters for each of these components.  Believe it or not, prior to the installation of the new command and control system, the tracking of all of these resources was actually done manually.  Many operational aspects like configuration parameters were managed locally on spreadsheets that were shared via email.

The new command and control system is based on a new central database accessed via a web server.  This database contains all the configuration, assignment, and archived monitoring parameters.  In addition to display, it also serves a control function: A request for resources is made on the website itself, and this request is available instantly to all parties with access.

These resources include the satellite modems and terrestrial ports at the teleport, the terrestrial ports at the Navy Communications Stations, and the specific range of frequencies, or “slots”, used by the Navy ships to transmit and receive.  Allocation of these resources to one ship precludes their assignment to another ship.  Consequently, it is imperative to maintain a real-time display of which resources are assigned to which ships, both for situational awareness and to plan future missions.

Complicating this assignment process is the fact that periodically, the “slots” or frequency assignments are changed—this might be done, for example, to accommodate a different data rate.  A given transponder might be “slotted out” for 5 links running at 2 Mbps or 10 links operating at 1 Mbps, for example.  These frequency assignments are done on a different software platform, operating its own database. 

In the construction of the CBSP web tool, this database was federated to the CBSP database.  Consequently, when the CBSP Bandwidth Manager adjusts frequency assignments using his software platform, these new assignment are visible on the CBSP platform in near real-time (within five minutes).

After resources have been assigned to a mission (Navy ship), those resources are shown as unavailable for assignment to other missions during that time period.   When the ship begins transmitting, the web server collects receive parameters in real time, stores them in a database, and makes them available for all to see.

This information is useful both for real-time operations and as a way of verifying that we meet the contract’s requirements for network performance.  This centralization of command and display has significantly streamlined and improved overall operations by reducing the time to provision a mission and increasing the reliability and volume of archived performance parameters.

Stay tuned for part three in this blog series where we highlight key steps that we took to manage information assurance and data security under the CBSP.

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