WASHINGTON — Viasat announced May 22 it received an Air Force contract to build a small satellite equipped with a Link 16 military communications terminal that will operate in low Earth orbit.
Link 16 is an encrypted radio frequency widely used by the U.S. military and NATO allies to share information across the battlefield. Link 16 terminals are deployed aboard aircraft, land vehicles and ships to facilitate the exchange of data in standard message formats.
The $10 million contract awarded to Viasat is for a pilot program led by the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles directorate to test the use of a Link 16 terminal on a small satellite in low Earth orbit as a network relay, Ken Peterman, president of Viasat Government Systems, told SpaceNews.
Link 16 network concept. Credit: Viasat
Link 16 works as a line-of-sight network; extending it into space would provide beyond line-of-sight connectivity.
The company will build a 12U satellite, about the size of a dorm room refrigerator, and will integrate a Link 16 terminal that is smaller than a shoebox. The spacecraft could launch as early as summer 2020, Peterman said.
Viasat will be the first company to prototype and test space-based Link ...