New satellite terminals approved

The Defense Department's satellite Global Broadcast Service received approval earlier this month for its next generation architecture and ground terminals, said top executives of Raytheon.

Raytheon holds the contract for GBS, which can be viewed as DirecTV for the warfighter. The GBS system — which operates over KA-band transponders on Navy UHF Follow-On satellites and leased Ku-band transponders on commercial satellites — has a throughput measured in terabytes, making it a key tool for distributing satellite imagery and video feeds from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to combat commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq, said Alan Goldey, GBS director for Raytheon.

Much like home satellite services such as DirecTV, GBS is also used to distribute CNN to deployed forces, considered an essential information source by some combat commanders.

The high bandwidth of the GBS system supports distribution of 90 percent of "actionable" intelligence to U.S. combat commanders, including satellite imagery and feeds from multiple Predator UAVs, Goldey said.

When GBS was first introduced in the late 1990s, transmission was based on Asynchronous Transfer Mode protocols but Raytheon has now moved to the widespread and standard Internet Protocol. The company announced Wednesday that it on Oct. 12 completed an upgrade of its ground control facility in Wahiawa, Hawaii to an enhanced architecture which supports GBS receivers which use either ATM or IP standards. The company plans to finish an upgrade of GBS ground control facilities in Sigonella, Italy and Norfolk, Va. next year.

Raytheon is now fielding GBS terminals at the rate of 40 per month. Terminals fielded today weigh about 300 pounds, down from the original, which weighed 600 pounds, and Raytheon envisions development of 50-pound, manpack terminals, Goldey said. The widespread fielding of some 2,000 terminals over the next several years mean combat units as small as an Army or Marine infantry battalions will eventually have GBS capability, Goldey said.

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