In our last article on the Government Satellite Report, we sat down with Ram Rao, the Director of Business Development Engineering, Technologies and Solutions at SES Space & Defense, to discuss the need for interoperable space and ground networks as a new generation of near-peer, pacing threats makes joint multi-domain operations essential.
During our discussion, we asked Ram about the challenges that an austere space domain creates for the DoD, the technological challenges that the military faces when trying to integrate satellite networks with coalition and industry partners, and what some industry leaders are doing to make the seamless management of unified global networks a possibility for our military.
One of the advancements and innovative solutions available to the United States Department of Defense (DoD) is the Information & Communications Technology (ICT) Portal, a recently-released application that can enable military users to see their entire network – including both space and ground assets – on a single pane of glass. This new solution gives the military transparency into everything on their networks and allows for the easier management and operations of both terrestrial and space network assets and capabilities.
Government Satellite Report (GSR): In our last discussion, you talked about the sheer number of different space and ground networks that the DoD needs to see and manage as they work to integrate their own space assets with those of coalition and industry partners. How does the lack of a single, all-encompassing view of the network impact the military’s ability to manage its networks to overcome denied or disrupted capabilities or services? How does this impact the warfighter in the field?
Ram Rao: I have heard every high-ranking official in our military discuss the need to increase the speed of delivery and the speed of operations. But to accomplish this, they need end-to-end communications and data-centric global networks.
They are also looking to reduce the latency in satellite networks from the 600ms offered by satellites in Geosynchronous Orbit (GEO) to the 150-50ms offered by satellites in Lower Earth Orbit (LEO) and Medium Earth Orbit (MEO).
Timing is everything for warfighters. It’s no surprise that our adversaries are working towards pursuing efficient delivery capabilities. To continue to compete and win in the future, we need to remain faster and more effective despite their efforts.
“The ICT Portal is a web-based NetOps set of tools providing end-to-end situational awareness in a consumable “single pane of glass” user interface.” – Ram Rao
Global integration of our networks is crucial for seamless connectivity from one end of Earth to the other through various space and ground connections. The lack of a unified network will significantly and adversely impact the speed at which we deliver information and capabilities to warfighters, drastically reducing their effectiveness. However, with an integrated, resilient network – and agreed-upon access – there should not be any denials or disruptions.
GSR: What is the Information & Communications Technology (ICT) Portal? What was the initial concept and intention for the portal? What tools or capabilities does the ICT Portal give to military and government users?
Ram Rao: The ICT Portal is a flagship capability we offer to our customers and mission partners as a part of our network solutions. The ICT Portal is a web-based NetOps set of tools providing end-to-end situational awareness in a consumable “single pane of glass” user interface. The consolidated network visibility provides our mission partners something they generally don’t have with COMSATCOM networks – a near real-time view into the network.
Even when COMSATCOM networks work in tandem with MILSATCOM networks, the ICT Portal gives users a view of their space segment, teleports, gateways, hubs, and terrestrial circuits – all the way to the individual user terminals.
The ICT Portal offers users five views into their network – each with multiple capabilities. These capabilities and functionality include an operational dashboard, terminal console, capacity management tool, and reporting tools. Within each capability view are a variety of sub-views, each with dozens or sometimes hundreds of data points to observe, filter, and use to improve the understanding of the SATCOM network.
“Our ICT Portal’s satellite coverage overlays allow users to see both EIRP and G/T maps of the satellite coverage in their network. The intent of this capability is to show users their satellite coverage within the deployment area.” – Ram Rao
SES Space & Defense’s intention has always been to support our mission partners with capabilities that deliver complete visibility and transparency into their networks and provide the situational awareness required to make timely, informed decisions.
GSR: Can you provide an example of how and why the ICT Portal could be useful to the military doing a mission or operation? What could it enable them to do?
Ram Rao: Our ICT Portal’s satellite coverage overlays allow users to see both EIRP and G/T maps of the satellite coverage in their network. The intent of this capability is to show users their satellite coverage within the deployment area.
This enables them to know – before they deploy – the minimum terminal specification required in that location. For example, if they are in the 50 dBW contour, they will need a minimum of a 1.2-meter antenna with a four-watt BUC. Users can also select multiple footprints to see where they have overlapping or redundant coverage. This capability immensely helps quick and efficient planning.
Another useful example is our VSAT Point Assist tool. While it is best practice to always do a site survey prior to deploying a VSAT terminal, we understand that it’s not always possible for DoD missions. The VSAT Point Assist tool provides field techs with a way to do site surveys virtually.
“We are continually working with our customers to improve and expand the capabilities of the ICT Portal.” – Ram Rao
The VSAT Point Assist tool allows users to input a location and choose a satellite. It then generates an estimated pointing angle and provides other necessary information, such as elevation and azimuth angles. Users can also drag the icon to different locations to ensure a clear path to the satellite.
The goal is to enable the military to conduct site surveys without a physical presence in theater and save significant time and costs while allowing them to better prepare for missions in advance.
Another useful example I’ll share is the ICT Portal Weather Overlay capability, which offers more than 150 different options of illustrating near real-time, historical, and forecasted weather information. This tool allows users to select as many of these events as they want and add them to the active list – such as active fire points, lightning strikes, tropical cyclones, and other live weather events. They can even see hurricanes and their paths.
These overlays are essential to improve situational awareness for our warfighters. It allows them to visualize how rain, snow, or ice may affect satellite connections and identify any alternatives they may have.
GSR: Is the ICT Portal available today? If not, when will it be available? Also, who will be able to utilize it?
Ram Rao: The ICT Portal is available today for SES Space & Defense network customers and is being utilized by some of our current government partners.
We are continually working with our customers to improve and expand the capabilities of the ICT Portal. We have an extensive road map to add new capabilities and features to the ICT Portal, including AI/ML capabilities, a complete cyber monitoring package, and fully customizable reporting packages. We also plan to enable select mission partners to control portions of the network as needed for critical mission success.
To learn more about the SES Space & Defense ICT Portal or request a demonstration, click HERE.