L3Harris won an $80.8m contract as part of the Defense Experimentation Using Commercial Space Internet project.

The federal agency conducting operations, the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), describes the programme:

“[An] experiment with the capability to seamlessly move and share data among a wide variety of fixed and mobile operation locations.”

The agency added that communication would be constantly available, reach a high bandwidth and flow beyond the line of sight.

Since its establishment in 2017 the programme harnesses multiple commercial space internet constellations. The system enables communication with military platforms anywhere in the world.

The constellations will be deployed in various orbital regimes using common user terminal and hardware elements.

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“By taking advantage of the commercial space internet, we plan to concentrate government efforts and resources on the few areas that are unique to air force applications. Development and experimentation are necessary to effectively use this new global utility for military operations,” the AFRL said.

How will L3Harris secure SATCOM?

An L3Harris editorial from December last year suggests that conventional satellite communications (SATCOM) are becoming more vulnerable.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine illustrates an emerging threat disrupting the Ukrainian armed forces’ tactical SATCOM.”

The company offers its very small aperture terminals in an effort to secure SATCOM. This capability ensures that military users can communicate through satellites while minimising electronic signatures and interference by near-peer adversaries.

Commercial solutions that L3Harris will explore as part of the latest contact set a path to safeguarding military communications.

“USSF [US Space Force] will provide an operationally effective, affordable, resilient, and secure satellite communications architecture that supports global mission priorities and is adaptable to rapidly changing requirements, technologies, and threats,” the USSF stated in its Vision for SATCOM (2020).