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Five Findings from GVF’s Applied Innovation Conference

By | October 14, 2016
      Sunrise Intelsat GVF Applied Innovation Conference

      The Oct. 13 sunrise reflecting off Intelsat’s McLean, Virginia headquarters, host of the GVF Applied Innovation Conference. Photo: Via Satellite

      [Via Satellite 10-14-2016] Mobility is one of the satellite industry’s new favorite words, now that connectivity is viewed as a must have for vehicles and vessels around the world. To capture that demand, several companies are working on new technologies and products, and shared about these at the Global VSAT Forum’s (GVF) Applied Innovation Conference Oct. 13. Here Via Satellite shares our top five findings from the conference.

      1. Hughes Wants Future HTS to be Very Flexible

      Hughes envisions having High Throughput Satellites (HTS) that enable the company to readily service multiple applications and not be limited to one or two verticals. Dan Lozada, VP of international sales at Hughes, said that for the company’s role as a service provider, Hughes wants future systems to use a combination of space and ground technology that enable flexibility in serving different markets.

      “What you are going to see … is a satellite platform that has different types of applications all blended into a technology mix. It’s a little bit different than designing the satellite with only the aero or only consumer base. Because we are launching satellites every two to three years, we know we have to be careful not to select only one or two markets and then not have proper solutions for different ones,” he said.

      Lozada said Pradman Kaul, president of Hughes Network Systems, has a vision for the company in terms of HTS. In February, Kaul said Hughes was “working very hard on Jupiter 3,” as the operator’s next generation HTS system. He estimated at the time that an announcement related to a satellite manufacturer would likely be made in the ensuing months. Eight months later, Hughes and parent company EchoStar have yet to make a public decision regarding Jupiter 3.

      “The whole company is lined up in terms of what we are going to do for growing our consumer business, growing our mobility business, and part of that is also increasing the enterprise part of what we do,” added Lozada.

      In Hughes’ business as a provider of technology to other satellite and telecommunications companies, Lozada said the company is involved in providing technology to High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) systems like what Google is working on, but added that Hughes does not plan to create a HAPS service of its own. Hughes next HTS satellite, Jupiter 2, is slated to launch on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas 5 rocket.

      2. SSL has First In-Orbit Servicing Contract

      Space Systems Loral (SSL) has a contract to provide in-orbit servicing with an undisclosed commercial customer, VP of Business Development, Karl Clausing said. Through parent company MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), SSL has significant experience in space robotics, coupled with its own contracts for satellite servicing technologies with NASA and the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Clausing said the contract is essentially an agreement “to buy once the service is available.” Right now, SSL still needs to prove if the business case is viable.

      “The final business case is still out there, whether we fund this ourselves or bring in some venture capital or some other capital, or we work as a partnership. That’s still to be determined for this particular servicer. In terms of the proximity operations, several of the operators have looked at this and believe we have done our due diligence and believe that this is all feasible,” he said.

      The first customer is not buying the entire capacity of the servicer, which SSL has yet to name, but only a portion of it. Clausing estimated at least three to five missions with the servicer would likely be enough to go forward with the project. He added that the servicer fits in with the long term vision of a “persistent platform,” where instead of operators continually buying new satellites, they could instead launch new payloads and have them replace outdated technology right there in space. Two other companies, Orbital ATK and Effective Space Solutions have also announced contracts for in-orbit servicing this year.

      3. CyberESI Customer Base is Roughly One-Quarter Satellite Companies

      Andrew Silberstein, Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) of CyberESI, a managed security service provider, estimated that between 20 and 30 percent of his company’s business now comes from the satellite industry. He said CyberESI is working increasingly with teleports and satellite operations centers, which are now prime targets for cyber criminals.

      “Satellite communications and teleports, believe it or not, are a major threat vector for these adversaries for a lot of reasons,” he explained. “One is the ubiquitous nature of satellite communications. We have seen that firsthand both in satellite operations centers and teleports, and these kind of attacks don’t happen once a month — these happen almost on a daily basis. So if you are prepared for that, you can take action and mitigate risk, but without that, very likely there are issues going on either within your operations or within a particular teleport.”

      Silberstein said security incidents grew at a 66 percent Calculated Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) in 2015, that 170 million malware incidents affected 10,000 organizations in one year alone, and that attackers took minutes or less to compromise systems in 93 percent of cases. He said to truly protect networks — satellite included — visibility into the network itself is a must.

      “These companies that are breached, they all have firewalls, they all have anti-viruses, so there is an important message here. The message is that those lines of defense do not stop attackers. Obviously they are getting in within minutes, so if you just have firewalls on the front door and you’ve got anti-virus on the end-points, that’s not going to stop them; something else is needed,” he said.

      4. AvL Technologies Researching Flat Panel Antenna Technology

      AvL Technologies is beginning to wade into the field of flat-panel antennas, according to Dave Provencher, VP and director of business development. While gauging the opportunity in land mobility to be low due to line-of-sight issues caused by buildings and structures, for maritime and aero he said there are very visible market applications.

      “The answer is yes,” Provencher said in response to a query about if AvL is considering making phased array or electronically steered antennas, “but right now we are watching very carefully what’s happening with Phasor and Kymeta and some of the other companies.”

      AvL has had high demand for its existing antenna solutions, so much so that the company last month opened a 60,000 square foot multi-tenant manufacturing facility to produce at higher volumes. The company also released a new line of fixed Earth station antennas last week. Provencher said AvL is beginning to research flat-panel antennas, but only on a limited basis.

      “We have some steady contracts with universities right now, but it’s such a large investment for a relatively small company to do that so I don’t see us developing anything in house, but doing it in conjunction with [partners],” he said.

      5. Kratos RT Logic Creating a “Roaming” Capability Between Government and Commercial Satellites

      Kratos’ RT Logic division is studying how to create a product that would let government customers leverage both milsatcom and comsatcom resources with the same system. Such a technology, according to Mark Dale, business development director at RT Logic, could enable government users to more flexibly use satellite communications.

      “The idea is to let the government use satcom capability for roaming like a cellphone: you can either use a government satellite or a commercial satellite network,” he said.

      The system would require a multi-modem terminal that could tap into different satellite networks using an open architecture, Dale said. He described the system as using several modems, military gateways and a control system to manage milsatcom, commercial leased bandwidth and commercial managed networks.

      Dale said the concept for this “roaming” capability comes from military leadership at the United States Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC). Without such Department of Defense (DOD) support, he said the project would probably be too farfetched.

      “The government itself is seeing this,” he said. “They absolutely have to change the way they access satellite capacity.”