Viasat is scheduled to launch the first 50-pound XVI satellite in the spring of 2021, as part of the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Space Vehicles XVI programme.
The satellite communications company will deliver the satellite to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California in December, ahead of launch.
The XVI satellite comprises a 12U spacecraft bus manufactured by Blue Canyon Technologies and features a Viasat Link 16 payload as well as Roccor L-Band antenna.
Operating from a 95-degree orbital inclination, the XVI satellite will have an on-orbit lifetime of at least six months. Benefiting from immediate interoperability with legacy Link 16 terminals already fielded across the Department of Defense, the satellite will support multiple demonstrations due to be undertaken by the AFRL, Marine Corps and Special Operations Command.
Craig Miller, Viasat’s Chief Technology Officer for Government Systems, explained that the AFRL’s XVI programme will push the boundaries of what can be achieved with Link 16 communications protocol.
“We’re working at distances that are far greater than have ever been demonstrated with Link 16 before and we have gone from a science project to a space launch. It’s a really exciting time,” he said.
According to Miller, demonstrations will test the spacecraft’s ability to help create and share COPs with ground users across extended ranges. Designed to enhance situational awareness, COPs generally indicate the position of friendly and enemy forces as well as other points of interest across a map or satellite image of the battlespace.
“The COP means ground users, aircraft, and ships know exactly where everyone is within a local theatre or battlespace,” he said. “XVI will turn Link 16 into an interconnected and global capability in addition to providing an exit point into external IP and broadband internet networks, allowing users to share target tracks and access data anywhere in the World. We are really excited about the program and the increased capabilities it will offer to warfighters, which will drive increased Link 16 Concepts of Operations (CONOPS).”