Thursday, April 18

Viasat links up with Northrop Grumman for Air Force communications experiment

WASHINGTON — Global communications company Viasat announced Feb. 29 it has signed an agreement with defense prime contractor Northrop Grumman to support an Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) experiment using broadband satellite internet to connect military vehicles and aircraft. 

The experiment is part of AFRL’s Defense Experimentation Using Commercial Space Internet (DEUCSI) program, which aims to demonstrate commercial satellite broadband services integrated on platforms ranging from ground vehicles to fighter jets.

Under the agreement, Viasat will supply high-capacity modems that connect to the company’s geostationary satellites.

Northrop Grumman is working under a $95 million, four-year contract awarded by AFRL in June 2023 to design, develop and test three prototype satellite terminals that use multiple commercial and military communication systems. 

“As part of its contract with Northrop Grumman, Viasat will provide its ViaSat-3 satellite communications network to enable military users to access high-bandwidth satellite internet connectivity from existing U.S. Air Force aircraft or ground vehicles,” the company said in a news release. 

Viasat, based in Carlsbad, California, said it will integrate a ViaSat-3 modem into Northrop Grumman’s processors and antennas to conduct experiments demonstrating its use on multiple platforms.

The DEUCSI program includes commercial providers of satellite services from various orbits.

One of the objectives is to demonstrate terminals that can operate across commercial and military networks in low, medium and geostationary orbits in the Ku and Ka bands. The goal is to build a resilient satellite communications capability, AFRL said. 

AFRL started DEUCSI in 2017

The Air Force Research Lab established the program in an effort to demonstrate the utility of commercial satellite communications services and whether a seamless network can be established and accessed via common user terminals. Several defense contractors and commercial satellite communications providers have won DEUCSI contracts.

ViaSat-3 reduced capacity

Viasat said it plans to start providing wi-fi services to airplanes by the end of June from ViaSat-3 F1, even though the satellite lost more than 90% of its capacity due to an antenna deployment failure following the April 30 launch. 

ViaSat-3 F1 is the first of a planned constellation of three geostationary Ka-band communications satellites. F1 is intended to cover the Americas, with future satellites covering Europe and the Asia-Pacific regions. 

ViaSat-3 F2 is currently projected to launch in the first half of 2025.