Transforming Battlespace Communications
On the other side of the U.S. Army’s milestone multi-orbit antenna trials, the government’s modernization initiative took a timely big step toward unprecedented network resiliency just as adversarial threats reach a fever pitch. The Russian invasion in Ukraine has certainly raised the security stakes and intensified the need for simultaneous communications streams over a single platform, to keep connectivity flowing in the event of intentional jamming, cyberattacks, kinetic attacks, interference, and outages.
Isotropic Systems has just completed a series of situational communications tests over its new multi-link terminal that consistently prove the ability to either run redundant or complementary communications links concurrently over GEO, MEO and LEO orbits. NATO forces can deliver mission-critical HD video surveillance of targets over LEO-based satellite links, for example, while intelligence data is distributed over the same antenna at the same time over high-speed GEO and MEO links to warfighters on the frontlines. If communications is cut off to one satellite for any reason, the user can instantly route traffic over one of the other established links, even if they are in a completely different orbit, using a single antenna.
Here’s the simplest way to think about it. One multi-link antenna acts like multiple physical terminals by creating concurrent full performance links to multiple satellites. U.S. Government agencies and military forces currently use one antenna to point to one satellite and unfortunately require a second, third and fourth antenna to provide redundant links. They can now use one antenna that meets DoD JADC2 (Joint All-Domain Command & Control) and the U.S. Army’s CS25 and CS27 requirements, utilizing new deep tech called transformational optics to provide concurrent full-performance links to multiple satellites in multiple orbits for a new level of powerful, secure communications.
On the Heels of Breakthrough Trials
Isotropic Systems’ multi-link antenna enabled voice, video, and data transmissions over concurrent two-way connections to SES satellites in geosynchronous (GEO) and medium Earth (MEO) orbits during military-grade trials at the U.S. Army’s proving grounds in Aberdeen, Maryland. The terminal has also opened the door to all-orbit connectivity following successful tests that delivered bi-directional traffic over Telesat’s phase 1 low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite while concurrently transporting communications over a GEO satellite.
The links coming from this single terminal use patented optics lens technology to simultaneously point to different satellites over different frequencies across commercial, government and military networks — all without compromising performance. These trials will lead to the commercial rollout of the first military-grade, multi-link mobility Ka-band antenna later this year. The GM2000 terminal unlocks highly anticipated communications capabilities not only for defense initiatives but ultimately across a wide range of sectors including maritime, enterprise, government, and land mobility markets.
How it Works
Commercial and government engineers have tried to develop full-performance multi-link antennas for years. When Isotropic Systems initiated the development of their platform, they took a unique approach by pioneering a new deep tech sector called transformational optics.
They started by determining the exact behavior they wanted from RF energy, radio waves. That resulted in a series of equations that defined what needs to happen within a specified shape to get that desired behavior. Once they solved those equations, however, what they ended up with is material that actually doesn’t exist in nature. That’s a problem if you want to make a real antenna from it!
Some workarounds to this challenge included using metamaterials, but they come with the significant drawbacks of being lossy and narrowband. One way to solve those equations was by using broadband, low-loss, isotropic (hence the name) materials. Ultimately, they ended up with a unique optimal beam former design that is at the core of all their multi-link antenna products.
In essence Isotropic Solutions is enabling what the satellite industry forgot to do a long time ago — mesh satellite networks together to allow for empowering levels of interoperability. Can you imagine carrying five cell phones in your pocket for every time you move from one cell network to another? That’s exactly how the satellite networks work today — in proprietary silos.
Interoperability across satellite systems is more important than ever, especially for government and defense networks who need to access the plethora of new satellites and constellations coming online in GEO, MEO and LEO orbits to realize the flexibility and resiliency they must have in today’s adversarial environment. The ability to provide multiple full-performance links also means the military can multiply the throughput to the terminal and dramatically increase the bandwidth that every frontline warfighter has at their fingertips. Once this mission-critical multi-link platform is running, there’s an endless combination of possibilities for leveraging multiple links and services in support of NATO forces — especially with the growing number of sensors across the battlefield.
Resiliency and flexibility across a military comms network will offer a competitive edge and save lives. If a unit outfits all its Humvees with a terminal that can only connect to a specific network, enemy forces can easily take down communications capabilities across that fleet. A multi-layered, fully integrated terminal makes an adversary’s decision matrix inherently far more complex and extremely tough to knock out your comms-on-the-move and comms-on-the-pause.
As the government’s modernization initiative takes shape, multi-linked antennas capable of delivering a new age of multi-layered, multi-orbit connectivity will be at the core of the military’s competitive edge in the very near future.
This article was written by Brian Billman, Chief Marketing Officer, Isotropic Systems (Washington, DC). For more information, visit here .