Broadband/Connectivity/Telcos News

Viasat teams up with Loft Orbital for Real-Time Space Relay service

Under this deal, Viasat’s Ka-band space terminal will be integrated on a Loft spacecraft along with multiple commercial payloads.

Viasat has chosen Loft Orbital (Loft) as its partner for the Real-Time Space Relay (RTSR) service, a demonstration aligned with Viasat’s involvement in NASA’s Communications Services Project. This project, supported by a $53m award, aims to evaluate commercial satellite communications services and technologies for NASA’s near-Earth communications requirements, particularly as it transitions away from the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) system.

The Viasat RTSR service is engineered to provide low data latency, facilitating continuous connectivity with low Earth orbit spacecraft for near real-time transfer of time-sensitive mission and telemetry, tracking, and command (TT&C) data. With the proliferation of low Earth orbit constellations, this scalable service will capitalize on Viasat’s high-throughput geostationary orbit network and expanding the ground station network to ensure persistent global coverage.

A newly developed space-qualified Ka-band space terminal from Viasat will be integrated onto a Loft spacecraft alongside multiple commercial payloads. This demonstration mission aims to showcase Viasat’s space-based relay communication services’ ability to support NASA and other missions with high-throughput, on-demand connectivity for critical mission data downlinking and in-orbit spacecraft and payload software upgrades.

Anticipated to launch in Fall 2025, the mission will highlight how the Viasat RTSR service enriches Loft Orbital’s space infrastructure offerings, providing a new real-time connectivity resource for Loft virtual missions and enabling innovative capabilities for customers.

Commenting on the deal, Michael Maughan, Vice President of Space and Mission Systems at Viasat Government Systems, said: “Viasat is excited to partner with Loft Orbital to showcase our progress under NASA’s Communications Services Project and to highlight the first commercial use of Viasat’s Real-Time Space Relay service. This intersatellite link capability will provide significant value to Loft’s commercial mission, both during and after the demonstration period. The combination of multi-orbit space-relay service through Viasat’s high-capacity network and access to our global ground network will offer NASA and other government customers, as well as commercial providers, greater flexibility in downlinking data to the ground via whichever path is most timely or cost-effective.”

Pierre-Damien Vaujour, CEO of Loft Orbital, added: “Loft is proud to partner with Viasat on NASA’s Communications Services Project to provide the infrastructure for this important capability. The addition of Viasat’s relay service to our space infrastructure will let our virtual mission customers deploying AI applications have continuous real-time access to their mission for time-critical applications.”

The Communications Services Project is managed by NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, under the direction of NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) programme.