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Boeing signs off design of anti-jamming tech that keeps satellites online

Boeing said on Tuesday its anti-jam ground-based satellite communications system had passed the necessary tests to validate its design for use in the U.S. Space Force’s Pathfinder program.

The aerospace giant hit the milestone by demonstrating the system, called the Protected Tactical Enterprise Service (PTES), with an on-orbit operational satellite. Engineers tested what would happen if field-deployed equipment was accessed via the US military’s jam-resistant waveform, the Protected Tactical Waveform (PTW).

The tests validated hardware and software integration between PTES and the Department of Defense’s satellite communications (SATCOM) architecture.

There’s still more testing to come for the software and hardware integration. The US Space Force plans to deploy PTES over the government’s Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) fleet, of which Boeing is also the prime contractor, where it will provide PTW processing over the fleet sometime in 2024.

Space Force’s intention is to prevent adversaries interfering with signals sent to military satellites, even in hostile environments. China and Russia both possess the capability to disrupt satcoms, recognition that orbital assets have a critical role in terrestrial conflict and degrading them is therefore a likely tactic.

While the initial user of the anti-jamming tech is Space Force, commercial satellite operators are another likely customer.

Space Force’s Space Systems Command (SSC) said the goal of Pathfinder is to “demonstrate affordable bandwidth acquisition by gaining long-term access to transponder assets from commercial satellite providers,” presumably without worrying about being jammed.

Pathfinder launched [PDF] its third mission in early February – a transponder known as Pathfinder 2 that went on board Hispasat’s Amazonas Nexus geostationary remote internet providing satellite.

“The ability to augment the current wideband constellation combined with the potential to introduce resilience, will greatly enhance our ability to stay connected in contested environments,” said chief of tactical satcom acquisition delta at Space Systems Command Charlotte Gerhart.

“By augmenting current systems with PTES, which is designed to be forward and backward compatible with government and commercial systems, the U.S. DoD and its allies are able to meet the challenges of an evolving battlefield,” said Boeing VP of government satellite systems Troy Dawson.

Boeing is also building a $1.8 billion space-based PTW hub for sensitive and classified information called the Protected Tactical SATCOM Prototype (PTS-P). The $383 million PTES contract was awarded to Boeing in 2018. ®