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path-agnostic communications space internet high-speed decision-making

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WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio – U.S. Air Force researchers are asking communications and networking experts at two U.S. defense contractors to find new ways to distribute information among land, sea, and air forces quickly to support high-speed decision-making.

Officials of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, awarded contracts Thursday to Lockheed Martin Corp. in Bethesda, Md., and to Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., for the Defense Experimentation Using the Commercial Space Internet program.

This project seeks the ability to move and share data seamlessly among a wide variety of fixed and mobile operating locations using constantly available, high-bandwidth, beyond-line-of-sight communications.

This new capability will be called path-agnostic communications because its users will be able to communicate reliably to any location in the world without explicitly specifying which nodes of a communication network to use.

Related: High-performance computing benefits signal- and data processing in aerospace and defense applications

Lockheed Martin won a $3.6 million contract Thursday for the Defense Experimentation Using the Commercial Space Internet program, and Ball Aerospace won a $2.3 million contract.

The vision for path-agnostic communications is becoming possible due to the burgeoning commercial space internet, Air Force officials say. Several commercial companies plan to establish space internet constellations consisting of hundreds to thousands of satellites, each to create global internet services.

The Defense Experimentation Using the Commercial Space Internet program seeks to establish resilient, high-bandwidth, high-availability Air Force communications and data sharing capabilities by leveraging developing commercial space internet networks.

This approach differs radically from traditional military satellite communications programs in which the government typically specifies and funds every aspect of the program, Air Force researchers point out.

Related: Dilemma: Databus or switched fabric?

Instead, taking advantage of the commercial space internet will concentrate government efforts on the few areas that are unique to Air Force applications.

The project has three phases: establish connectivity between several Air Force sites using commercial demonstration satellites and terminals; expand connectivity to many Air Force assets by proliferating user terminals to several locations and vehicle types; and special experiments to address military-unique requirements not otherwise met by commercial space internet vendors.

Last year Defense Experimentation Using the Commercial Space Internet program contracts went to Iridium Satellite LLC in McLean, Va., and to the L3Harris Communication Systems West segment in Salt Lake City. Iridium won a $2.5 million contract in July 2018, and L3Harris Communication Systems West won a $5.7 million contract in September 2018.

For more information contact Lockheed Martin online at www.lockheedmartin.com; Ball Aerospace at www.ball.com/aerospace; Iridium Satellite at www.iridium.com; L3Harris Communication Systems West at www2.l3t.com/csw; or the Air Force Research Laboratory at www.wpafb.af.mil/afrl.



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