The Transformational Satellite Communications program, or TSAT, is a planned constellation of five communications satellites in geosynchronous orbit linked to thousands of portable terminals distributed across the joint force. It will use internet-style technology to connect war-fighters all over the world in a global communications network with unprecedented carrying capacity, accessibility and reliability. TSAT is the only orbital communications option presently available to the military that can reconcile rapidly growing demand for bandwidth with the need to protect sensitive information from jamming, eavesdropping and nuclear effects.
TSAT was conceived as part of a “transformational communications architecture” to bring war-fighters and other members of the national security community flexible, unfettered communications — even when they are on the move or under fire. It will be the first satellite constellation built for the military that fully exploits “internet protocol” technology, a set of technical standards that enables information to traverse diverse networks as if they were a single unified web. When combined with high-capacity laser links and dynamic allocation of bandwidth, the internet-style communications system supported by TSAT will deliver major benefits to war-fighters:
• Greatly increased carrying capacity
• Interoperability across diverse networks
• Expanded access for local users
• Enhanced quality of service
• Advanced information protection
• Improved situational awareness
Because it can deliver these benefits even to mobile, isolated users, TSAT is arguably the single most important technology initiative the military is currently funding. It will save money and lives across the joint force, enabling strategies that would not have been feasible employing legacy communications systems. However, although most of the technologies necessary to bring TSAT to fruition have already matured in the commercial world, the program has been repeatedly delayed by cutbacks in funding. Failure to fund the program adequately in the future could leave war-fighters ill-equipped for the fluid and diverse challenges of the information age.
This report was written by Dr. Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute staff in consultation with a working group of public-sector and private-sector experts convened to provide the most current, authoritative assessment of future military communications needs.
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