DISA to develop satellite comms architecture

The Defense Information Systems Agency is asking industry for help in developing a communications architecture for satellite systems that serve the Defense Department, the intelligence community and NASA.

The Transformational Communications Architecture will address the potential for an expanded role for commercial satellite communications to meet the requirements of DOD, NASA and the intelligence community through the year 2020, according to the request for information released Jan. 9.

The Communications Functional Integration Office (FIO) of the National Security Space Office (NSSO) is overseeing the project.

According to the RFI, the agency wants to assess the ability of the commercial satellite industry to meet a wide range of requirements, including wideband and narrowband communications provided by satellite systems operating in L, S, C, X, Ku, and Ka bands.

DISA also needs to know how well commercial services can support various communication platforms, such as handheld, airborne (including unmanned aerial vehicles) and shipboard communications. Replies to the RFI are due Jan. 26.

Bernie Skoch, a consultant with Suss Consulting who worked for DISA as director of customer advocacy, said it makes sense to bundle future NASA requirements with DOD because NASA has a lot of satellite assets that lie fallow between space missions.

Skoch said that the RFI indicated that DOD does not have enough in-house expertise to develop its own architecture and needs to reach across the table for help from industry.

In a briefing delivered to a Satellite Industry Association conference late last year, Cmdr. Allan Assel of the FIO said DOD needs a new architecture to address potential shortfalls in the coming years as the demand for satellite communications exceeds capacity.

Assel said next-generation communications architecture should also leverage IP-based communications, which can support interoperable voice, video and data streams, memory in space, and information assurance. The new TCA should also work in concert with DISA's Global Information Grid to help synchronize multiple acquisitions.

NSSO, in cooperation with the Transportation Department, is also developing an architecture for satellite-based positioning, navigation and timing services.

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