Intelsat General’s Richard DalBello Discusses Orbital Refueling at SATCON 2011

Like all of Intelsat General Corporation’s (IGC) customers, the DoD continuously seeks to maximize the use of the commercial satellite resources that it leases. One of the best ways to do this is with equipment designed to share bandwidth across multiple sites that transmit and receive only when necessary, rather than having each site use a single channel that ties up bandwidth even when there is nothing to communicate.

But adding an extra piece of equipment designed to help make the best use of leased satellite bandwidth is not a simple task on board a mobile platform, where every nook and cranny of space is packed and carefully allocated.

To overcome this challenge, our customer recently completed testing an IGC solution that included the Vipersat Dynamic Channel Assignment system manufactured by Comtech EF Data. The Vipersat solution delivers the same satellite sharing mechanisms and protocols as the more widely used iDirect and ViaSat Linkway systems.

But there was a major technical hitch with these two systems – they would have required proprietary equipment to be installed on board each platform. This is not only complicated by the lack of space, but also by the continuous deployment of the customer’s mobile platforms. Changing the satellite equipment for the entire network would involve months if not years of coordinating schedules, availability periods, and contractors.

To overcome these challenges, our customer coordinated with IGC to roll out the Vipersat Dynamic Channel Assignment system, which required only a minor retrofit of the network’s existing equipment. This was easily accomplished on the legacy modems already in place because it did not involve a wholesale change-out, just some firmware and module upgrades.

Tests have been conducted from two of the IGC teleports.  The results to date are impressive — all the antennas in a given pool of bandwidth successfully share that bandwidth according to preset priorities based on traffic type and source. For example, voice and VTC traffic is prioritized over email, and a commander’s traffic can be prioritized over more routine communications.

In addition to more efficient use of bandwidth, the IGC Secure Operations Center in our Atlanta teleport can now “see” what the mobile platform’s equipment is seeing. With the older equipment, we could only monitor and control the equipment setup at the teleport.

Any on-board configuration or monitoring had to be done by telephone with the on-board operators. With Vipersat, we can now monitor and control the on-board equipment for them. We can now jump on minor problems, like a slightly lower receive power, before they become major problems like an outage.

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