Air Force lab taps Carlsbad’s Viasat for orbital comm project


Viasat’s Carlsbad headquarters. (Viasat photo by Brandon Davila)

North Coast Current

The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate recently chose Carlsbad-based Viasat as a contractor in the development of an orbital communications program.

Viasat is slated to provide on-orbit space relay connectivity for the ARBALEST program, which has a goal of demonstrating operational space-based capabilities for the Department of Defense, according to a June 7 Viasat news release.

“The future AFRL mission will illustrate the advantages of enabling real-time, global connectivity between DoD low Earth orbit (LEO) spacecraft and commercial geostationary (GEO) satellites,” Viasat explained in its announcement.

Viasat will provide the Air Force Research Laboratory with a Ka-band payload for integration into a spacecraft for the future AFRL mission. The Ka band is a broadcast frequency that is used for spacecraft, radar, vehicle speed detection, space telescopes and other communications.

The company will provide engineering analysis, integration and test support, and will also support the mission’s on-orbit demonstration phase, Viasat stated.

“Viasat is very excited to expand its partnership with AFRL and to accelerate the delivery of advanced commercial space-based communications for the DoD,” Craig Miller, president of Viasat Government Systems, said in the news release. “This technology will help increase resilience for future U.S. space missions and benefit warfighters with more direct, immediate access to information and data to improve the situational awareness and decisions supporting the safety of those on the front lines.”

The Air Force Research Laboratory’s project will be the first demonstration of Viasat’s space relay service, according to the company. The service is expected to reach operational capabilities by late 2025.