Global communications company Viasat Inc., has been selected by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Space Vehicles Directorate (RV) to provide on-orbit space relay connectivity for its ARBALEST program.
The future AFRL mission will illustrate the advantages of enabling real-time, global connectivity between Department of Defense (DoD) Low Earth Orbit (LEO) spacecraft and commercial geostationary (GEO) satellites.
The ARBALEST program and expected AFRL-led mission will demonstrate the military utility of LEO space relay over commercial high throughput satellites in support of space mission resilience, real-time data dissemination, command and control (C2), as well as the rapid retasking of government space vehicles. Viasat’s space relay solution is key to enabling these capabilities and will leverage the upcoming ViaSat-3 constellation, which includes three Ka-band terabit-class GEO satellites, to provide continuous coverage for LEO spacecraft anywhere and at any time in their orbit.
Under the ARBALEST program, Viasat will provide AFRL with a Ka-band space relay payload for integration into a spacecraft for the future AFRL mission, as well as provide engineering analysis, integration and test support. Viasat will also support the on-orbit demonstration phase of the mission.
“Viasat is very excited to expand its partnership with AFRL and to accelerate the delivery of advanced commercial space-based communications for the DoD,” said Craig Miller, President of Viasat Government Systems. “This real-time space relay capability will offer an efficient method of moving LEO satellite data to the ground for operations. Most importantly, this technology will help increase resilience for future U.S. space missions and benefit warfighters with more direct, immediate access to information and data to improve the situational awareness and decisions supporting the safety of those on the front lines.”
Viasat’s on-orbit connectivity solutions are designed to reduce data latency, provide real-time tasking of on-orbit assets, and enhance resilience through multi-path networking schemes. The space relay service will be a new offering to help commercial and government LEO operators share time-sensitive data more effectively and remain in constant contact with their spacecraft, allowing them to send commands and receive data at any time, all through the high-capacity, resilient ViaSat-3 constellation.
This future AFRL mission will be the first pathfinder demonstration of Viasat’s space relay service. The Viasat space relay service is expected to achieve initial operational capability in late 2025.