The U.S. has been looking for a system to provide reliable combat communications for as long as we’ve been fighting wars.Today’s overlapping branches, operating in the same theatre with different comm. systems can be a logistical nightmare, and setting up communications during a firefight is an good way to get killed.
Hoping to change all that, the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C. is launching the TacSat-4 10-channel UHF communications satellite from Kodiak, Alaska next week.
The TacSat will act as an overhead relay for ground troops, allowing them to carry small hand-held radios with no antennas.
At just under 1,000 pounds, and a cost of $150 million, the orbiter is cheap to launch and to operate.
TacSat-4 will take a highly-elliptical orbit path at about 12,000 kilometers, a third that of most communications satellites.
Focusing on communications in mountainous terrain, the new design will provide communications for troops in a given spot three times a day for up to eight hours daily.
While that may seem staggeringly limited, Michael Hurley of the Naval research Lab points out: “[The] TacSat-4 is going to open up satellite communications to a community of users who previously would have been bumped off the schedule by higher-priority strategic or operational missions.”
The TacSat is expected to foster a new line of cheaper, task specific military satellites.
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