[Via Satellite 10-14-2014] Hughes has progressed on the development and implementation of a new waveform specialized for rotary wing Beyond-Line-of-Sight (BLOS) satellite communications (satcom). First introduced last year, the company is working with several prime contractors for helicopter mainframes on a satcom system where the antenna sits under the fuselage.
Helicopters present a challenge for satcom, as the rapid movement of the rotary blades creates serious interference between the antenna and the satellite. The Hughes waveform, called “Microsat,” has been in development for about five years, according to Rick Lober, VP and general manager of defense and intelligence systems at Hughes. It works by quickly reacquiring after passing through the helicopter blades and is equipped with a forward error correction code to make up for lost data packets, effectively reassembling any lost information.
“We get very good results: no packet loss, and about 10 Mbps throughput through the helicopter blades,”Lober told Via Satellite at Milcom. “We’ve done quite a bit of testing with a couple of prime contractors over the last year or two, and we now have a packaged modem and airborne-qualified type enclosure that we are marketing for both fixed wing and rotary wing applications.”
The microsat waveform resists getting “chopped up” by the helicopter, enabling the deployment of smaller terminals in Ku, Ka and X band. Lober said the waveform consequently has anti-jamming characteristics as well, since the way a rotary system interferes with a signal is not too different from a pulse jammer.
The defense sector is a top market for this new waveform. Hughes has based the system on its HX satellite broadband platform, meaning it meets the Federal Information Processing (FIPS) 140-2, Level 2 encryption standard as well as Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) requirements. Microsat can be used for both manned and unmanned rotary vehicles.
Hughes’ HX platform has taken the spotlight for mobility and military markets. Analysts at Comsys noted in the 2014 Hughes Market Summary and Company Profile Report how the platform’s ability to support traffic switching between beams and global roaming between different hubs with the same Network Management System (NMS) are advantageous features for these applications.
“We believe that Hughes continues to have big ambitions for the HX. As we speculated in the previous section with respect to the likely application of Hughes’ Jupiter System technology on the next generation HT platform for enterprises, it is quite likely that the HX will become a beneficiary as well with significantly higher data rates and greater IP throughput performance added to the system over time,” Comsys analysts wrote. “The HX’s comms-on-the-move (COTM) and military capabilities also open up segments that Hughes has not been strong in historically as it focused on larger volume opportunities.”
Lober confirmed that Hughes is looking at applying the microsat waveform to more than just helicopters, specifically highlighting other COTM applications. In the meantime, he said more testing is planned as the company works to reduce the size and weight, and to optimize the packaging for airborne use. These improvements are expected to make the waveform and associated technologies more applicable to a larger set of platforms.
“We expect to start moving onto other platforms in FY15, including commercial rotary wings applications, and actually deploying the system,” he said.
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