Secure, reliable, timely and resilient access to information is critical to success in any modern enterprise. This is especially true for military operations across the spectrum from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) to battle in highly contested and congested environments.
Currently, the Australian Defence Force relies upon technology developed in the 1970’s to provide network connectivity for its arguably most at risk deployed forces. These systems have well known limitations yet there has been limited research into alternate technologies to support command and control and situational awareness for the tactical warfighter. The project seeks to identify and develop technology for advanced satellite communications as a long-term option to replace or augment these current high mobility satellite communications services.
The project builds on previous SmartSat funded research with a clear focus on three critical technologies to address this gap:
- Flexible and adaptive communications waveforms designed for the tactical user
- System wide network management to optimise resource allocation for capacity, coverage and resilience
- Reconfigurable, agile coverage using multi-frequency, multi-beam antenna arrays (pending future external funding)
This project will refine designs of the tactical communications waveform and initiate research into algorithms that optimise coverage and capacity of heterogeneous/hybrid satellite constellations including an initial demonstration implemented in software. The aim is to accelerate the technology development and understand risks in order to define a follow-on project, funded externally to SmartSat, that will develop a prototype space payload capable of integration with an experimental satellite. This subsequent phase will use the results from this project to inform the agile, multi-beam, multi-band phased array design and the development of initial user terminals. It is expected maturing this technology to the point it can be demonstrated in space will cost $5M – $10M and take three years. This is beyond the resource available from SmartSat so this project will include the
submission of a bid for Defence innovation/prototyping funding to support maturation of the critical underlying technology from TRL4/5 to TRL8.
The target technology demonstration and experimentation program for this research is the Defence STaR Shot for Resilient Multi-mission Space (RMS). The demonstration will showcase a game-changing approach to the provision of resilient satellite communications to the tactical warfighter.
Note: Within this project, tactical communications means systems supporting high levels of user mobility which requires the use of very small aperture terminals (e.g. handheld) and the ability to operate over complex RF propagation channels.
Jeff Kasparian, SmartSat CRC