At the annual SMI MilSatCom Conference in 2017, Army Major General Pete Gallagher, former CENTCOM/J6, shared a vignette about U.S. forces fighting ISIS in the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility. He stated that CENTCOM forces, operating on the ground, were capturing ISIS strongholds that contained “treasure troves” of battlefield intelligence, but there was no way to rapidly get that information to exploitation centers and then take advantage of it. He then said, an industry partner came to CENTCOM with a very high throughput and low-latency solution that could get this information to the right people in minutes, not days and weeks like before. He went on to say that this made a big difference for CENTCOM and their planning efforts across the region.
This is just one example of how SES Space and Defense is providing Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellite connectivity and solutions for military operations around the world. SES has since added four more satellites to its O3b MEO constellation (now 16 total) and plans an additional four in 2019 (20 total). SES Space and Defense, as the only MEO commercial owner/operator, currently provides over five Gigabits per second of MEO High Throughput Satellite (HTS) capability to 21 different U.S. Government sites worldwide. In April of 2018, SES Space and Defense signed a single-award Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) for MEO low-latency HTS services with a ceiling of $516,700,000 over a five-year period of performance. This BPA allows USG customers to rapidly procure O3b MEO services. There has never been a better time for the U.S. Government to take advantage of high-performance MEO services as well as this new BPA contract vehicle.
MEO missions in the future
In 2021, we will be able to meet the growing U.S. Government demand for higher throughput and low latency with our next-generation fleet of seven O3b mPOWER satellites. With O3b mPOWER, our goal is to offer managed services and solutions that are designed and optimized for the U.S. Government. This fleet will provide an aggregate global bandwidth of more than 420 GHz that is 100% fully configurable in terms of power, frequency, and beam flexibility. U.S. Government users will have access to the first global multi-terabit system capable of delivering “virtual fiber” anywhere. O3b mPOWER’s secure, flexible and ubiquitous (±50° latitude) connectivity is ideal for today’s high-tech military and its network-centric operations, with multiple layers of active and inherent security, and its flexibility to provide data in real time. The O3b mPOWER system complements SES’s existing O3b MEO fleet to connect exponentially more people around the world. The new super-powered satellites will be built by Boeing, SES’s first O3b mPOWER technology partner. Existing terminals in the field will also be compatible with the new and current MEO fleets. As part of the O3b mPOWER system, SES and other partners will also develop new Customer Edge Terminals on the ground – converging storage, computing, and routing with software intelligence and specialized antennas.
Government-level encryption mPower
The next-generation O3b mPOWER satellite fleet has multiple layers of security and jam resistance. These include NSA-approved uplink and downlink encryption (CNSSP-12 compliant); inherent jam resistance due to the orbital satellite mechanics, narrow beams and dynamic beam forming capabilities. Our satellite platforms are also fully redundant. Since O3b mPOWER satellites are functioning in MEO orbit and are not stationary, they are less susceptible to jamming and interference. We have been a trusted and secure provider of SATCOM for many years. By the time O3b mPOWER launches, we will be operating over 20 MEO satellites for more than 7 years.
The system will enable government users to securely and autonomously manage beam capacity and location to support secure operations. The U.S. Government will be able to shape, moderate, route shift and switch over 4,000 beams per satellite. Users in the field will be able to deliver multiple terabits of throughput globally and can scale to tens of terabits. Intelligent beamforming enables the ability to tailor and deliver bandwidth worldwide. With O3b mPOWER, SES Space and Defense can land a beam precisely where the customer needs it. We also have the ability to land 5GHz of bandwidth into any single spot, or as little as 15 MHz allowing us to serve both high and low-density locations and not limiting us to one or the other. With this system, the U.S. Government can expect a seamless end-to-end service supporting U.S. Government missions on air, land and sea.
Government users can take advantage of O3b mPOWER’s global coverage (+/-50 degrees latitude). At launch, there will be more than 30,000 formed beams system-wide providing unrivalled coverage for nearly 400 million km² of the Earth’s surface. Together, the low-latency networks will facilitate the massive shift from local storage to cloud-based, network-centric operations, meeting the requirement for an “on-demand” experience virtually anywhere in the world.
O3b mPOWER is a system of technology and service partners to innovate, grow and create the most compelling, cost-effective end-to-end experience for our customers. With the natural disaggregation of the MEO constellation, customizable beam offerings and global presence we see significant potential with government customers. SES Space and Defense stands as the only provider of current and next-generation MEO capability to the U.S. Government. While this capability is relatively new, proven, and powerful – I truly believe that it will change the landscape of connectivity for U.S. forces in the years ahead.