US Army to collaborate with SpaceLink on tactical communications network

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WASHINGTON — SpaceLink, a space communications company, said it agreed to work with the U.S. Army to help articulate the service’s plan for a tactical network that can help distribute data and imagery more quickly.

The cooperative research and development agreement with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Technical Center, which SpaceLink announced Monday, allows the organizations to share facilities, intellectual property and expertise to “elevate solutions for both the warfighter and industry,” the McLean, Virginia-based company said in a statement. There is no funding connected to the agreement.

While the work isn’t tied to a specific Army program, it comes as the service is making plans for a Tactical Space Layer that would enable it to use overhead imagery to target beyond-line-of-sight threats. The Army has been partnering with commercial companies and other military services to conduct experiments and prototyping efforts aimed at reducing the amount of time it takes to collect and deliver satellite data to a weapon system.

SpaceLink is investing internal funds to develop a satellite relay system that will reside in medium Earth orbit — between 1,243 and 22,236 miles above planet’s surface — and use laser communications for faster and more secure data transfer. Anthony Colucci, the company’s chief strategy and commercial officer, told C4ISRNET in an interview that SpaceLink is in the “ready-for-production phase” and plans to launch its first constellation of four satellites by the end of 2024.

Colucci said the company views the agreement as a sign the U.S. government understands the value its system will bring once on orbit. Although its constellation isn’t operational, SpaceLink will provide modeling and simulation tools that the Army can use to better understand how the capability could fit into its architecture.

“It can take hours, and sometimes even days, between the time somebody says, ‘I need certain data, I need an impact of what’s going on,’ until they have that data back,” Colucci said. “With our system, it can be minutes to even seconds. So, you can imagine the tactical importance.”

After its first satellites arrive on orbit in 2024, SpaceLink plans to launch new capabilities every two years, increasing processing speed and capacity with each iteration.

Colucci said the company has discussed its plans with the Space Force, Space Development Agency and the Defense Innovation Unit, providing studies and white papers to show how the system could improve data delivery times. He said he expects additional partnerships to be formalized soon but declined to provide details.



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Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.