Lockheed Martin is nearing a significant milestone in demonstrating the reach of its 5G.MIL capability across all domains globally. In a recent successful laboratory demonstration, Lockheed Martin confirmed that its innovative space payload is ready to provide advanced communications capabilities globally from orbit. This demonstration in October highlighted the industry’s first fully regenerative Advanced 5G Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) Satellite Base Station, a key component of Lockheed Martin’s 5G.MIL Unified Network Solutions Program. In 2024, Lockheed Martin plans a self-funded mission to launch this payload, bringing 5G capabilities to space and demonstrating its potential to connect the globe.
About the demonstration
In a live lab environment featuring actual hardware, the Advanced 5G NTN Satellite Base Station, compatible with 3GPP Release 17 standards, conducted high-speed data transfers, connecting with prototype NTN user equipment. The demonstration included a simulated satellite orbital pass, during which the Satellite Base Station, equipped with space-hardened flight hardware, successfully connected with ground-based user equipment, achieving tasks like live video streaming. Joe Rickers, Lockheed Martin’s Vice President for Connectivity, Transport and Access, emphasized the importance of space layer capabilities for consistent, secure connectivity and global coverage in 5G communication systems, particularly in challenging environments.
How it works
Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Satellite Base Station for 5G, technically termed gNodeB, features several key components:
- A complete 5G New Radio (NR) Radio Access Network (RAN) stack, RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC), and 5G Stand Alone (SA) Core, all running on space-qualified flight hardware destined for the TacSat mission.
- Reprogrammability in orbit, courtesy of Lockheed Martin’s SmartSat software-defined satellite architecture.
- A split architecture option, placing the Control Unit (CU) on the ground and the Distributed Unit (DU) on the satellite, enhancing network implementation choices.
- Connection capabilities with leading prototype NTN user equipment via a space communications channel emulator that replicates doppler and delay parameters typical of a satellite in Low Earth Orbit.
Why it matters
“Space-based communications will provide high-speed backhaul to land, air and sea 5G.MIL Hybrid Base Stations as well as direct access to user equipment running 3GPP NTN standard protocols from orbit,” said Dan Rice, Vice President for Lockheed Martin’s 5G.MIL Programs. “Regenerative NTN solutions enable direct, satellite-based secure communications between users in a coverage area – bypassing more vulnerable terrestrial networks when necessary.”
Lockheed Martin, in the lead-up to this successful demonstration, has collaborated with key subcontractors over the past three years to develop and integrate the regenerative 5G NTN HBS-Space system:
- AccelerComm provided an advanced 5G NTN Layer 1 PHY solution, tailored to meet Lockheed Martin’s system requirements and space flight hardware specifications.
- Radisys contributed 5G NTN Layer 2/3 and 5G SA Core software, ensuring seamless integration with Lockheed Martin’s solutions.
- Keysight facilitated the development testing of Lockheed Martin’s 5G NTN base station through its 5G NTN user equipment simulation product suite.
The Advanced 5G Satellite Base Station is the lynch pin in Lockheed Martin’s vision to provide global 5G connectivity. For the past three years, the company has been investing in, developing and demonstrating fixed, relocatable, mobile and now, space variants, of its Hybrid Base Stations. “These tools are a major part of our 21st Century Security vision to always keep our customers ahead of ready,” Rice added.
Tom Cronk, Chief Executive Officer, AccelerComm said: “5G satellite communication promises to unlock a whole new world of services and applications for government organisations and individuals, and we are proud to have worked with Lockheed Martin and its partners on delivering this vision. A space deployed – scalable 3GPP Release 17 compatible 5G gNodeB proves that 5G NTN communications is a reality. AccelerComm’s LEOphy delivers higher data rates with reduced power and has dedicated features to overcome the specific challenges of NTN channels. We look forward to continuing our partnership, and to further developing advanced 5G Layer 1 NTN solutions that deliver the robustness, latency, and throughput that are critical to the success of 5G in space.”
Munish Chhabra, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Software and Services, Radisys said: “Radisys is pleased to achieve this successful 3GPP-based satellite connectivity demonstration in partnership with Lockheed Martin to advance NGSO SATCOM solutions for rapidly evolving global communication needs. With our award-winning Release 17 Connect RAN 5G Software’s NTN evolution, Radisys looks forward to continuing to work with Lockheed Martin and its partners to develop advanced regenerative 5G NTN solutions for communication services available across all operational domains.”
Vince Nguyen, Vice President/General Manager, Aerospace, Defense, and Government Solutions, Keysight Technologies said: “Keysight is pleased to collaborate with Lockheed Martin on successfully demonstrating a regenerative NTN 5G NR Base Station by providing our 5G NTN user equipment (UE) simulator and Wavejudge wireless analyzer to facilitate testing and evaluation of Lockheed Martin’s 3GPP-compliant NTN base station. Our UE simulator provided validation of the base station’s required behaviors and performance, including during integration testing on reference flight hardware and early hardware-in-the loop (HWIL) confidence demonstrations. Keysight looks forward to continuing to provide software and hardware emulation tools to accelerate the technology advancement of 5G NTN Base Stations together with Lockheed Martin and its partners.”