The small satellite manufacturer Blue Canyon Technologies (BCT) has been awarded the contract by Viasat to build a US Air Force test satellite to act as a “Link 16” communications relay terminal in low Earth Orbit. The test satellite will use a BCT XB1 12U cubesat bus/platform and will be launched in 2020.
“Link 16” is an encrypted communications system which allows real-time situational data of the battle area to be given to individual military units usually via light-of-sight RF communications. It has been in use on military aircraft for more than three decades. The new relay system, if successful, will allow communications with units outside of direct line-of-sight communications with a base – especially those on land or at sea. The test is being run by Viasat on behalf of the US Air Force Research Laboratory under a US$10 million contract awarded in May to the satellite communications firm Viasat.