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Hughes and SES Demonstrate First Multi-Orbit SATCOM for Remotely Piloted Aircraft

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Germantown, MD / Luxembourg, 22 September 2021 - Hughes Network Systems, LLC (HUGHES) and SES today announced the successful first demonstration of a new multi-orbit satellite communications (SATCOM) capability for remotely piloted aircraft. Conducted for General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), the demonstration paired Hughes HM series software-defined modems and Resource Management System (RMS) with SES’s satellites that operate in geosynchronous (GEO) and medium earth (MEO) orbits. SES’s unique multi-orbit fleet, which delivers global coverage, high throughput and security, was leveraged to show how unmanned aerial vehicles, such as the GA-ASI MQ-9 series, can maintain crucial connectivity and resiliency, even in contested environments.

The demonstration replicated a typical unmanned Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) mission, transmitting high-definition video and sensor data to and from the unmanned vehicle to the command center. Based on the mission’s pre-set policies, the RMS automatically switched the satellite signals to stay connected – even when a signal experienced interference and jamming scenarios. A quasi-instant and smooth beam switch took just seconds to complete, allowing a near real-time capability that enhances the military’s Primary Alternative Contingency Emergency (PACE) planning.

“Our multi-orbit demonstration for remotely piloted aircraft delivered three times the throughput of the currently deployed SATCOM service using a terminal less than half the size, while maintaining constant connectivity,” said Rick Lober, vice president and general manager, Hughes Defense. “This highly resilient, significantly reduced SWAP option for primary and secondary aero connections unlocks new beyond-line of sight mission opportunities for unmanned aerial vehicles like the GA-ASI MQ-9. It’s another example of how Hughes empowers our military to exchange information securely with the right people at the right time.”

“SES's second-generation MEO system, O3b mPOWER brings a new age of game changing performance, scalability, and resilience that will enable us to deliver the network sovereignty that governments are looking for,” said Will Tong, vice president of Strategic Government Initiatives and Head of the Aero ISR market at SES Networks. “The demonstration we did with Hughes showcases the power of the industry’s first multi-orbit networked capability to exponentially increase performance utilizing small terminals, while giving end-users the autonomy to provision networks to meet their operational ISR needs. It also comes at a perfect time as we are preparing to launch O3b mPOWER as the showcased solution ensures both high-performance and multiple layers of network resiliency and security for multi-domain operations that involve moving platforms in remote, austere locations.”

The demonstration was powered by software-defined gateways and modems from the Hughes HM System, a commercially based, frequency-agnostic, open architecture platform for fixed, mobile and portable government applications. For more information about Hughes Defense solutions, including the HM System, visit defense.hughes.com.