New Ka-band MILSATCOM system successfully tested

Lincoln Laboratory recently completed its portion of the on-orbit testing of the first Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite, utilizing the Laboratory-developed Large Aperture Ka-Band Test Terminal (LAKaTT).

Photo of Large Aperture Ka-Band Test Terminal (LAKaTT)Large Aperture Ka-Band Test Terminal (LAKaTT)

The Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) system provides new worldwide high-capacity military satellite communication capabilities. WGS is a constellation of geosynchronous satellites, each orbiting 22,300 miles above the equator to provide continuous coverage of a large portion of the earth within their field of view, and is the successor for the current Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS). In addition to the X-band (roughly between 7 and 9 GHz) capability provided by DSCS, WGS provides Ka-band service (30 GHz ground to satellite, 20 GHz satellite to ground). This Ka-band service includes Global Broadcast Service (GBS) reception, similar to commercial digital video broadcast, as well as a wideband two-way Ka-band communications capability that is new for the Department of Defense. In addition, WGS provides cross-banding between X- and Ka-bands so that users with access to one of the bands can communicate with users of the other band in a single satellite "hop."

The Ka-band terminal provided by Lincoln Laboratory was developed for test and evaluation of the Ka-band capabilities of the WGS satellites after launch. The Lincoln Laboratory team refurbished and enhanced a surplus satellite communications terminal (originally used for GBS testing) as a two-way Ka-band test terminal for the WGS system. LAKaTT, which has a 20-foot antenna, can transmit up to six carriers simultaneously on either of the polarizations used by WGS and can receive both polarizations simultaneously. It is heavily instrumented and can operate under remote computer control.

Shortly before the launch of the first WGS satellite in October of 2007, the terminal was deployed to Camp Parks in Dublin, California. Following launch, LAKaTT was used for test and characterization of the satellite's Ka-band capability, during which the Lincoln Laboratory terminal was the first to utilize two-way Ka-band communications over WGS on orbit. The Laboratory deployed a test team to Camp Parks to provide round-the-clock support during the evaluation. Col Don Robbins, Commander, Wideband SATCOM Group, has commented that "The launch and on-orbit testing activities have been superb, and we’re really excited about having this capability in the hands of our warfighters."

Future plans for LAKaTT usage include supporting on-orbit testing of remaining WGS Block-1 satellites, followed by potential upgrades to support testing WGS Block-2 satellites as they are launched in 2011.

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