What Effect Will Transformational Satellite (TSAT) Termination Have?

Defense Budget Recommendation Statement As Prepared for Delivery by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Arlington, VA, Monday, April 06, 2009 DOD will “terminate the $26 billion Transformational Satellite (TSAT) program, and instead will purchase two more Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites as alternatives.” Transformational Communications Satellite (TSAT) Advanced Wideband System The Transformational Satellite […]
Defense Budget Recommendation Statement As Prepared for Delivery by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Arlington, VA, Monday, April 06, 2009 DOD will “terminate the $26 billion Transformational Satellite (TSAT) program, and instead will purchase two more Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites as alternatives.” Transformational Communications Satellite (TSAT) Advanced Wideband System The Transformational Satellite System (TSAT) provides orbit-to-ground laser communications. Throughput for the five-satellite constellation could top out at 10 to 40 gigabytes per second, with a total program cost of $12 billion-to-$18-billion for the entire constellation. The Transformational Satellite Communications (TSAT) System will provide DoD with high data rate Military Satellite Communications (MILSATCOM) and Internet-like services as defined in the Transformational Communications Architecture (TCA). TSAT is key to global net-centric operations. As the spaceborne element of the Global Information Grid (GIG), it will extend the GIG to users without terrestrial connections providing improved connectivity and data transfer capability, vastly improving satellite communications for the warfighter. As the terrestrial aspects of communication in the TCA evolve, so will DoD satellite resources. The stated goal of the Transformational Satellite communications system is to provide improved, survivable, jam-resistant, worldwide, secure and general purpose communications as part of an independent but interoperable set of space-based systems that will support NASA, DoD and the IC. TSAT will ultimately replace the DoD’s current satellite system and supplement AEHF satellites. The TCA proposes a radio frequency (RF), i.e., traditional radio-based, crosslink to complete the AEHF group of satellites or constellation. The constellation is called the Advanced Polar System (APS), which supports strategic and national users in the polar region. The APS is designed to withstand nuclear attacks and support the strategic mission with uninterrupted service. These satellites introduce the use of jam-resistant laser crosslinks for connection into the TSAT. http://www.globalsecurity.org/space/systems/tsat.htm

5 thoughts on “What Effect Will Transformational Satellite (TSAT) Termination Have?

  1. This is a good briefing on the use of commercial satellites for military purposes.

    Briefing – Advanced Milcom on Commercial Sat Systems
    by José del Rosario, NSR

    Except for the WGS-1 satellite that was launched in 2007, the current fleet of military communications satellites represents decades-old technology and capabilities. In order to address current as well as emerging requirements for national security objectives, newer and more powerful systems are being developed and deployed by the U.S. Military. These assets include the Wideband Global Satcom (WGS), Advanced EHF satellites (AEHF) and the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) programs.

    Advances in IT are changing the way warfighting and peacekeeping are being conducted. The ability to transmit critical information in theater in real-time, or near real-time, securely to and from various parts of the globe has enabled faster deployment of highly mobile forces. Bandwidth per soldier requirements has increased tremendously, and the result among others is that troops have become more capable in adapting quickly to changing conditions in the battlefield.

    Satellite communications have played a key role in providing interoperable, robust, communications; however, the current fleet of satellites has proven to be inadequate in terms of bandwidth supply to address current as well as future operations. In the next, or future, “network-centric” architecture that will upgrade or evolve future operations, advanced communications’ systems will be required.

    Advanced military satellite communications are often identified, and to a large extent, defined by the upcoming AEHF program. AEHF will provide global, highly secure, protected, survivable communications for all warfighters serving under the U.S. Department of Defense. Moreover, AEHF will provide greater total capacity and offer higher channel data rates compared to current milstar satellites.

    The higher data rates permit transmission of tactical military communications such as real-time video, battlefield maps and targeting data. In addition, AEHF will also provide the critical survivable, protected, and endurable communications to the National Command Authority including presidential conferencing in all levels of conflict.

    There is now an undeniable and accepted recognition that militaries around the globe cannot do away with commercial systems. Even if the U.S. Military were to achieve independence in terms of its bandwidth supply, the other benefits such as flexibility and redundancy that the commercial industry offers are invaluable.

    Challenges and Requirements
    FSS and MSS commercial satellites currently provide the same types of applications, including real-time video as well as tactical military communications. Commercial satellites are even a part of UAV missions, currently a growing and highly-critical application suite for warfighting that will increase in the future. Moreover, commercial satellites in terms of bandwidth may be able to throughput higher data rates based on currently available satellites based on bent-pipe and on-board processing programs. The sheer number of commercial satellites currently deployed makes bandwidth availability much higher compared to current and planned military programs, specifically for the U.S. military.

    In terms of the definition as well as the main difference between AEHF and commercial communications satellites, AEHF will provide survivable, highly secure, protected, global communications for all warfighters serving under the U.S. Department of Defense, whereas commercial satellite systems are vulnerable in the event of attacks or engagements that include nuclear capability. In terms of the ability to throughput secure, reliable, real-time or near-real time data, commercial systems could play a role in providing advanced communications for military missions.

    MILSATCOM systems are generally categorized as wideband, protected and narrowband:
    • Wideband systems provide high capacity,
    • Protected systems feature antijam, covertness, and nuclear survivability, and
    • Narrowband systems support users who need mobile voice and low-data-rate communications.
    In terms of these categories, commercial systems can tap into wideband and narrowband applications via FSS and MSS platforms. Indeed, commercial outsourcing by the U.S. Military has led to healthy leases of wideband/broadband capacity for missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for UAV missions in both countries as well as Pakistan. For narrowband applications, the U.S. Military has had a contract with Iridium, specifically for such capabilities.

    The only challenge, or requirement, not met by commercial systems lies in the protected realm. By definition, protected systems such as AEHF have the ability to avoid, prevent, negate, or mitigate the degradation, disruption, denial, unauthorized access, or exploitation of communications’ services by adversaries or the environment. This is particularly epitomized by activities that involve nuclear capabilities.

    Another challenge or requirement currently unmet by commercial platforms is the ability to offer wideband capacity in the Polar Regions. AEHF will feature an Advanced Polar System both for wideband as well as protected needs. The ability of the commercial industry to offer wideband services in Polar regions may change with the upcoming Iridium NEXT constellation. However, the requirement for protected wideband communications will once again remain a challenge in the commercial realm.

    Other features in upcoming advanced military systems include:
    • Capacity gains and improved features such as multiple high-gain spot beams that are important for small terminal and mobile users.
    • For AEHF, data rates up to 8.2 Mbps for future U.S. Army terminals will be provided.
    • For global communications, AEHF will use inter-satellite crosslinks, eliminating the need to route messages via terrestrial systems. This is planned for the TSAT program as well towards the end of the next decade.
    Commercial systems can address these requirements:
    • In terms of capacity gains, current broadband satellite programs such as iPSTAR, Spaceway (HNS) and WildBlue have spot beams, and these service providers can engineer bandwidth capabilities to approach, or even exceed, 8.2 Mbps.
    • The challenge, of course, is the footprint since both programs are not global. However, planned systems such as Ka-Sat, Viasat and Yahsat should enable higher regional coverage across the globe.
    • In terms of crosslinks, this is not yet a feature comparable to AEHF or the upcoming TSAT program. However, initiatives in hosted payload arrangement can link multiple satellites via router-in-the-sky solutions that can replicate linkages in the aforementioned military programs.
    The Market
    Developments in military areas are incorporating commercial systems in “Netcentricity.” For instance, Viasat’s MD-1366 EBEM modem is a commercially available modem for the military’s high-speed broadband and multimedia transmissions certified to MIL-STD-188-165B. The MD-1366 defines a military standard for high-speed satellite communications that use military and commercial satellites at X-, C-, Ku-, and Ka-band frequencies. Equipment manufacturers are likewise receiving RFPs and contracts for multi-mode terminals that can point to either military or commercial satellites.

    Advanced military communications feature advanced methods of interference and jamming analysis where terminal equipment is built to encrypt and decode transmissions. More importantly, advanced systems have the ability to survive rough treatment in hostile climates, specifically in a nuclear scenario.


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