New terminals mean more connectivity on land, sea and air – a Q&A with Scott Sprague of Isotropic Systems

In our last article on the Government Satellite Report, we featured the first in a two-part discussion with Scott Sprague, the Chief Commercial Officer at Isotropic Systems. During that first part of our conversation with Scott, we talked about an exciting partnership between his company and SES, which is working to make a new satellite terminal antenna available to the military that has the potential to truly disrupt and revolutionize military satellite communications in the future.

In the second half of our conversation with Scott, we transitioned the discussion towards the military – in particular. We asked Scott about the specific use cases and applications for this new technology across multiple domains – including land, air, and sea. We also spoke about the ways in which this new satellite terminal antenna technology will synergize with the upcoming O3b mPOWER satellite service being introduced by SES.

Here is what he had to say:

Government Satellite Report (GSR): What capabilities and use cases could this new antenna have for military land operations? Could this be an important tool for enabling comms on the move?

Scott Sprague: The Isotropic Systems terminal will enable a whole new age of comms on the move. The antenna is conformal to the top of a roaming land vehicle and even the backpack of a soldier in the battlespace.

Leveraging the terminal’s optical beam forming feature aboard a military vehicle, for example, defense operations can access and maintain reliable high-throughput connectivity on the go by seamlessly and automatically switching between satellites in GEO, LEO and MEO across a dedicated or shared government network in the field.

GSR: How about the air domain? How could these antennas be used for UAVs and other military aircraft? Why is it a good solution for these use cases?

Scott Sprague: The Isotropic Systems terminal is modular and can conform to the fuselage of a manned or unmanned military aircraft, this conformability coupled with complete flexibility on the transmit and receive configuration will enable operators to leverage unprecedented high-throughput capacity aboard a UAV for real-time, high-definition ISR data from the sky.

That’s an absolute game-changer for intelligence gathering in extremely adversarial environments.

Isotropic Systems is licensing our optical beamforming antenna technologies to aerospace and defense integrators for both commercial and government aircraft. The goal is to leverage the vast aerospace market expertise these integrators possess to accelerate custom designs, certifications, and deployments of next-generation terminals aboard commercial, business, and government aircraft across the globe.

GSR: How about the sea domain and ships at sea? Why would this terminal solution be ideal for this domain?

Scott Sprague: As the U.S. Navy expands the size and communications capabilities of its global fleet, it needs smarter, more powerful infrastructure to enable the U.S. defense system’s insatiable demand for high-speed, reliable, and secure bandwidth. Just like with land and air applications, the Navy and other mission-critical operations ideally want and need to have access to as much capacity as they can get aboard their seafaring vessels.

“As the U.S. Navy expands the size and communications capabilities of its global fleet, it needs smarter, more powerful infrastructure to enable the U.S. defense system’s insatiable demand for high-speed, reliable, and secure bandwidth.” – Scott Sprague

Isotropic Systems is currently putting its terminals through an extensive series of environmental and interference tests with the DIU. They are measuring the impact of harsh elements, such as intense winds, saltwater, and electromagnetic interference (EMI) in preparation for installations aboard some of the most advanced Navy ships on earth.

The conformal nature of the optical lens modules provides a powerful terminal in a limited real estate environment aboard Navy ships. That antenna design delivers seamless make-before-break switching between satellites in multiple orbits and continuous connectivity during turbulent pitch-and-roll conditions facing vessels traversing rough seas.

This milestone collaboration between Isotropic Systems and the DIU will ultimately lead to ultra-high-speed data delivery and real-time national security advantages that come with integrated government networks. We will enable the Navy and other government forces and agencies to arbitrage all the capacity they need from across LEO, MEO, and GEO orbits over a single multi-beam terminal. That’s transformational.

GSR: O3b mPOWER is a potentially revolutionary step forward in the satellite industry. What advanced capabilities and applications could you see O3b mPOWER and the new Isotropic Systems terminals delivering for government agencies and military organizations in the future?

Scott Sprague: O3b mPOWER is revolutionary with its unparalleled customized high-throughput capacity that enables users to tailor connectivity to their specific markets and customers. Isotropic Systems, working closely with SES, is providing the very ground infrastructure SES needs to light up new market opportunities for that tailored scalability and flexibility of the O3b mPOWER network and its unique multi-orbit MEO-GEO constellations.

We are fast approaching milestone terminal tests with SES in September that are part of our collaborative partnership to unlock access to the groundbreaking O3b mPOWER system across a wide range of markets – including government, aero, and defense.

And we’re nearing commercialization – as our developmental alliance culminates in a series of comprehensive engineering evaluations of our multi-beam antenna components prior to the commercial launch of our terminals and O3b mPOWER late next year.

By working closely with the SES Space and Defense team Isotropic Systems will be able to develop terminal solutions uniquely tailored to fit each mission.  Given the incredible flexibility that the O3B mPOWER network will bring to the government customers there needs to be ground infrastructure that is capable of supporting a multi-tiered communications network on the battlefield.

Whether it is a Forward Operating Base, a military vehicle, a navy vessel, or a solider on the move, the Isotropic Systems terminals will be able to access the full capabilities of the SES constellation.

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