Military Embedded Systems

Space-based 5G network will get demo in 2024


November 20, 2023

Lisa Daigle

Assistant Managing Editor

Military Embedded Systems

5G.MIL concept: Graphic courtesy Lockheed Martin

BETHESDA, Md. Lockheed Martin announced that it plans to launch a payload to orbit next year to demonstrate 5G connectivity from space, part of a larger project -- which the company calls 5G.MIL -- begun in 2020 in response to military demand for high-speed wireless communications.

By branching the latest cellular technology into space, the company said that it ultimately hopes to pioneer what it calls an “all-domain network,” a seamless network of communications between space assets, aircraft, ships, and ground forces.

Dan Rice, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for 5G.MIL programs, noted that the company had completed a successful hardware-in-the-loop test of a 5G nonterrestrial network payload and is planning to launch a satellite to low Earth orbit (LEO) in 2024 for a space demonstration. Rice described the payload as the industry’s first regenerative advanced 5G satellite base station for a nonterrestrial network. A regenerative payload enables direct, satellite-based communications that can bypass terrestrial networks when necessary. The satellite base station communicates with other satellites and with ground stations; in a regenerative base station, the signal processing and radio access network is onboard the satellite.

“In our case, the radio access network, all of that software and hardware, the core network that does user authentications is all on the satellite payload itself,” Rice said. “That creates additional resiliency in cases where the satellite may be operating over territory where you perhaps don’t have secure communications to the ground.”

The company said that the 5G payload was developed with open radio access network, which enables mobile service providers to build networks with nonproprietary interoperable subcomponents. 

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