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SES and Hughes Demonstrate Multi-Orbit Connectivity in General Atomics SkyGuardian Demo

By Rachel Jewett | November 11, 2022

The General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) SkyGuardian remotely piloted aircraft. Photo: GA-ASI

SES and Hughes Network Systems worked with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) to demonstrate multi-orbit satellite connectivity using a MQ-9B SkyGuardian remotely piloted aircraft in a recent demonstration. 

The demonstration used SES’s O3b Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) and Geostationary (GEO) fleet and a Hughes HM series software-defined modem and Hughes resource management system. During the demonstration, the connectivity service seamlessly roamed between O3b MEO and AMC-15 GEO satellites. The Hughes technology automatically optimized and switched satellite signals, demonstrating a near real-time capability that the companies said enhances the military’s Primary Alternative Contingency Emergency (PACE) planning.

The demonstration took place on Oct. 20 at GA-ASI’s Desert Horizon flight operations facility in El Mirage, California, the companies announced Nov. 10. 

“This demonstration proves the importance of next generation satcom for operators of our aircraft,” said GA-ASI Senior Vice President for MQ-9 Systems, Fred Darlington. “As we expand into new and more intricate payloads for our [remotely piloted aircraft], we’ll require higher data rates that provide the bandwidth, security and robustness to operate our sensors.”

Will Tong, vice president of Strategic Government Initiatives and head of the Aero ISR market at SES said this demonstration proved new levels of secure, flexible, and high-performance multi-orbit services for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR).

“Combined with the Hughes Resource Management System, the frequency-agnostic, open architecture HM System helps GA-ASI meet their military customer’s requirements for uninterrupted, high data rate, multi-orbit satcom, ensuring secure information accessibility,” commented Rick Lober, vice president and general manager of Hughes Defense.