Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin readies 5G satellite comms for take-off

Global aerospace firm completes demo of ‘first regenerative non-terrestrial network 5G satellite base station’ set for launch in orbit in 2024 in self-funded mission to prove capability to connect the globe

Lockheed Martin believes that it now just one step away from showcasing how its space-based capability can reach worldwide after a successful lab demonstration of its 5G.MIL technology.

The company said it has validated that its space payload is set to deliver global advanced communications capabilities from orbit. During its demonstration, Lockheed Martin showcased “the industry’s first fully regenerative Advanced 5G non-terrestrial network [NTN] satellite base station”, developed as a space component of the company’s 5G.MIL Unified Network Solutions programme. In 2024, in a self-funded mission, the company will launch this payload to orbit bringing 5G’s capabilities to “the final frontier” to prove its capability to connect the globe.

The Advanced Satellite Base Station for 5G, or gNodeB, includes a full 5G new radio (NR) radio-access network (RAN) stack, RAN intelligent controller (RIC) and 5G stand-alone (SA) core running on space-qualified flight hardware that will fly on the TacSat. It is reprogrammable on orbit using Lockheed Martin’s SmartSat software-defined satellite architecture and connects to industry-leading prototype NTN user equipment through a space communications channel emulator that introduced doppler and delay parameters consistent with a satellite low-Earth orbit.

“Space-based communications will provide high-speed backhaul to land, air and sea 5G.MIL hybrid base stations as well as direct access to user equipment running 3GPP NTN standard protocols from orbit,” said Dan Rice, vice-president for Lockheed Martin’s 5G.MIL programmes.

“Regenerative NTN solutions enable direct, satellite-based secure communications between users in a coverage area – bypassing more vulnerable terrestrial networks when necessary.”

Joe Rickers, Lockheed Martin’s vice-president for connectivity, transport and access, added: “Space layer capabilities are essential for consistent, secure connectivity and global coverage for 5G communications systems. 5G from space will enable joint all-domain command and control operations especially in austere environments, remote locations and contested areas.

“Our satellite base station is real, operational hardware and we’re excited for the next step – integrating this powerful payload into our self-funded tactical satellite which we’ll launch next year.”

In the demo that took place in a live hardware-in-the-loop lab environment, the Advanced 5G NTN satellite base station performed high-speed data transfers connecting with prototype NTN user equipment, compliant with the 3GPP Release 17 5G standard for improved radio flexibility and low latency.

During a simulated satellite orbital pass, the satellite base station, running on space-hardened flight hardware and the user equipment on the ground successfully connected and transferred data, including live video streaming.

In the three years leading up to the pre-launch demonstration, Lockheed Martin has been has been working with key subcontractors such as AccelerComm, which provided an advanced 5G NTN Layer 1 PHY solution, developed to support Lockheed Martin’s system requirements and space flight hardware specifications; Radisys, which supplied 5G NTN Layer 2/3 and 5G SA Core software; and Keysight which supported 3GPP standards-based development testing of Lockheed Martin’s regenerative 5G NTN base station.

Commenting on the demo AccelerComm CEO Tom Cronk said: “5G satellite communication promises to unlock a whole new world of services and applications for government organisations and individuals…A space-deployed, scalable 3GPP Release 17 compatible 5G gNodeB proves that 5G NTN communications is a reality.

“We look forward to continuing our partnership, and to further developing advanced 5G Layer 1 NTN solutions that deliver the robustness, latency, and throughput that are critical to the success of 5G in space.”

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