Lockheed Martin

Military 5G Payload Readied for Orbit

Nov. 22, 2023
Laboratory demonstrations and testing are evaluating the readiness of a gNodeB 5G satellite base station for setting in orbit a part of a 5G.MIL military 5G wireless-communications network.

To demonstrate that 5G wireless technology can serve both military and civilian users, Lockheed Martin is preparing its first 5G.MIL payload for Earth orbit. The launch follows a series of successful laboratory demonstrations and will yield the first 5G network base station to provide service from space.

The satellite base station was designed as a space component of the 5G nonterrestrial network (NTN). It was developed as a space component of the company’s 5G.MIL United Network Solutions Program. It is planned for launch in 2024. 

The regenerative base station was evaluated in a live hardware-in-the-loop laboratory environment. It performed high-speed data transfers while connected to prototype NTN user equipment, in compliance with industry-standard 3GPP Release 17. A satellite orbital pass was simulated while the base station was made to connect and transfer data, including live video streaming, to the NTN user equipment.

Joe Rickers, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for Connectivity, Transport and Access, explained, “Space layer capabilities are essential for consistent, secure connectivity and global coverage for 5G communications systems. 5G from space will enable Joint All-Domain Command and Control operations, especially in austere environments, remote locations, and contested areas.” 

The Advanced Satellite Base Station for 5G (gNodeB) includes a full 5G New Radio (NR) radio access network (RAN) stack with RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) and 5G standalone core running on space-qualified hardware flying on a TacSat satellite (see image above).

The satellite base station can be programmed in orbit via Lockheed Martin’s SmartSat software-defined-radio (SDR) code. It can be configured with a split configuration, having the control unit on the ground and the distributed unit on the satellite for operating flexibility.

The low-Earth-orbit (LEO) 5G satellite system provides coverage to areas difficult to reach with terrestrial 5G network equipment and with greater security than all-ground equipment. The launch will be the result of a three-year development effort, aided by key contractors including AccelerComm, Radisys, and Keysight Technologies.