2015 an exciting year for COMSATCOM and space

The GovSatReport launched in 2015, and its first year of publication has been a truly exciting and revolutionary one for the satellite and space industries. With a renewed interest and attention being paid to the industry, and new technologies being developed, we saw satellite – an industry many “experts” predicted to be on its death bed – come roaring back to life.

In 2015, we’ve seen the continued emergence of New Space. Driven by interest from Silicon Valley and a new crop of innovative startup companies, new and exciting capabilities are either available now – or are soon to become available – via satellite. These new satellite capabilities and new participants in the industry are being fueled by cheaper launch costs and the emergence of less expensive satellite busses and technologies. Together, they’re creating a renewed vigor in space and satellites and introducing some exciting new business models and services that we previously would have thought impossible.

And then there was the emergence of LEO and MEO satellite constellations. These low-latency, high throughput satellite constellations are promising fiber-like speeds and are capable of not only filling the ever-growing bandwidth demands of people across the globe, but also delivering connectivity to areas that currently don’t have wired networks.

Finally, this year bared witness to something that was a long time coming – a shift in how the United States military views, embraces and acquires satellite solutions.

Today, representatives from COMSATCOM companies sit side-by-side with military personnel in the Commercial Integration Cell (CIC) within the Joint Space Operations Center to ensure that information sharing can occur and threats to satellites are identified and neutralized before anything can happen. Authority for purchasing satellite services is being consolidated to ensure that the military has the bandwidth they need, when they need it and at a more reasonable price point. And COMSATCOM is widely being viewed by senior space leaders within the military as an integral part of their mission and a vital piece of their combined satellite infrastructure.

We couldn’t have picked a better year to launch the GovSat Report. From behind our monitors and keyboards, in conference rooms at satellite industry events and at live demonstrations of satellite technologies and capabilities, we’ve gotten to watch first-hand as the industry evolved and a new, exciting era began. And we can’t wait to see what 2016 holds.

Thank you for making the GovSat Report one of your go-to stops for government satellite news, trends and opinions in 2015. We look forward to bringing you more news from space in 2016 and beyond. In the meantime, here is a look back at some of our best stories and interviews from the past year:

Lt. Gen. John “Jay” Raymond discusses military’s need for COMSATCOM at SATCON 2015
The promise of New Space, the introduction of startups and innovative technology firms looking to do new and exciting things in space, and the decreasing cost of doing business in space has the industry buzzing about what the future holds for the industry. However, the discussions at the conference also illustrated the negative side of this rapid satellite and space expansion, as the need to secure assets in space in what is increasingly becoming a contested environment dominated much of the discussion. One of those trends – the need to protect satellite assets – was discussed at length during the keynote address by Lt. Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, Commander of the 14th Air Force (Air Forces Strategic) Air Force Space Command, and the Commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Space at U.S. Strategic Command.

Why NASA is Upping its TEMPO as a Hosted Payload – a Q&A with NASA’s David Beals
The desire to accomplish its mission in space without breaking the bank has led NASA to embrace Hosted Payloads. Hosted Payloads effectively involve the placement of government payloads on commercial spacecraft. This enables government agencies – such as NASA – to “hitch a ride” to space instead of paying to build and launch their own satellites. One of NASA’s upcoming Hosted Payload programs is TEMPO. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dave Beals, the TEMPO Program Manager at NASA, to discuss the program, what data it will deliver to NASA, how it will help the government and why NASA chose to launch TEMPO as a Hosted Payload. Here is what Mr. Beals had to say…

HTS – why big beams are a big deal to the military
One of the hottest technologies and topics in the SATCOM community is the emergence of high throughput satellites (HTS). In fact, the interest in HTS is so high across both the private and public sectors that discussion of the technology virtually dominated a large portion of both SATELLITE 2015 and the 2015 Space Symposium. Why is there so much attention being paid to HTS? Well, many enterprises and organizations look at bandwidth the way people look at money – they really can’t get enough.

Inclined satellites – how agencies can achieve major savings
With an eye towards cost savings, the federal government and America’s military have taken steps to dial back spending. Travel restrictions, hiring freezes and other initiatives have been put in place. But what if there was another way to cut costs that really had very little to no impact on accomplishing the government’s mission? The COMSATCOM being purchased to operate vehicles such as UAS and RPA could be one of the things that the military easily saves money on. Here’s how…

SATCON conversations center on the promise of New Space
If the speakers and panelists at this year’s SATCON Conference were to be believed, reports about the death of satellite have been grossly exaggerated. In fact, it seems that the future for satellite is brighter than it ever has been. Some background – last week I had the opportunity to attend SATCON, one of the year’s largest satellite conferences that takes place as part of the National Association of Broadcasters’ (NAB) Content and Communications World (CCW) event. The conference brought COMSATCOM providers, manufacturers of spacecraft and ground terminals and even government decision makers together to look at the major trends and challenges impacting the satellite industry today. One of the largest trends – and a reason for so much excitement – was new space…

Protecting satellites a major concern in New Space age
Based on the panel discussions and side sessions at this year’s conference, it was clear that a new energy and spark has been ignited within the satellite community – one being ignited by a new wave of innovation from startup companies that are entering the space industry. The drivers for these new startup companies – whose emergence is being tabbed New Space – are reduced barriers to entry thanks in large part to decreased launch and satellite construction costs. Although the emergence of New Space and the increased attention and excitement around the satellite industry, it comes at a price. The decreased cost to build satellites, the emergence of veritable “commercially available, off the shelf” satellites and the increased access to space thanks to cheaper, more convenient launch could create as many challenges as opportunities.

Exploring why the Military Eschews a Cost Saving Satellite Solution
Unfortunately, the MDA was pretty lonely when it came to military organizations speaking about their effective hosted payload programs. Not because programs haven’t been effective, but mostly due to the fact that these programs are few and far between. An overarching theme at this year’s Summit was the dearth of military hosted payload programs and ways in which to remedy it. In fact, an entire panel, entitled, “How to get more military end-users on military hosted payloads,” wrapped up this year’s program. There were multiple valid reasons and opinions as to why the military continues to eschew hosted payloads. Unfortunately, many of these seemed to be based on fear, a lack of education and a general difference in how the military and private industry operates.


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