In the past year, Intelsat has proven the capabilities of its new constellation of Intelsat EpicNG high-throughput satellites (HTS) and recently put into service its fifth spacecraft. Tests and customer experience have demonstrated a path forward for military organizations to leverage EpicNG and realize the benefits of HTS. Intelsat continues further down that path this year with the availability of managed services.
“We spent 2017 doing a lot of showing, demonstrating, proving what the Intelsat Epic satellite can do in two key areas. One is essentially high-throughput data links to very small terminals for different applications, from vehicle-mounted to airborne, and for a range of different users,” Skot Butler, President of Intelsat General, said in an interview with Aviation Week & Space Technology (subscription required). Intelsat also demonstrated how EpicNG can enable users to communicate not just with the hub side, but also user-to-user across a battlefield.
The latest Intelsat EpicNG satellite, Intelsat 37e, pushes the boundaries of space innovation with full interconnectivity – any beam to any beam – in C-band, Ku-band, and Ka-band. Intelsat 37e is designed to deliver additional services and improved throughput in all major applications: cellular backhaul, enterprise networks, rural broadband, maritime, aeronautical, direct-to-home television and digital terrestrial television.
Like the other Intelsat EpicNG satellites, Intelsat 37e features beam switching and anti-interference capabilities, as demonstrated last year with a Block 5 Predator B/MQ-9 on the Intelsat 29e satellite. The unmanned aircraft system (UAS) flew 1,075 nautical miles round trip in a test where command-and control of the UAS as well as sensor data transmissions from the aircraft were successfully switched multiple times between two beams.
Despite last year’s demonstrations and validations, Intelsat General recognizes the need to further educate government customers on what it means to utilize a high-throughput spot-beam architecture versus a wide-beam architecture.
“The military has a long history of wanting to cover very large geographic areas with a single requirement so that they can use that capability as their needs change. Sometimes they’ve even kept that capability in their back pocket for something that might emerge,” Butler said in the Aviation Week interview.
The high throughput spot beam architecture is different. Each of the beams covers a smaller area, so to cover a large geographic area the platform may have to traverse across more than one beam. A managed service allows you to move across those beams without having to buy capacity within each beam. With a managed service, you move from one place to the next, and the capacity moves with you.
Going forward, it behooves military customers to also understand the role of low-Earth-orbit (LEO) constellations such as that planned by OneWeb. LEO isn’t a replacement for GEO, but rather is better suited for certain applications. For example, LEO is a good fit for low-latency requirements and coverage over the polar regions where GEO can’t get to today.
Commercial satellite providers like Intelsat General have cleared the way to enable military customers to take advantage of HTS, even going so far as to make procurement easier and more cost efficient through managed services. Now it’s up to the military to do its part in realizing these benefits.
For more information on how HTS supports government applications, click here for our white paper.