Lockheed Martin’s Pioneering Step in Global 5G Communications
Lockheed Martin has achieved a significant milestone in enhancing global communication capabilities with its innovative 5G.MIL® technology. The company has successfully completed the final lab demonstration of its space payload, poised to deliver advanced communications globally from orbit.
Revolutionizing 5G Non-Terrestrial Networks
The recent demonstration in October showcased the industry’s first fully regenerative Advanced 5G Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) Satellite Base Station. This development is a critical component of Lockheed Martin’s 5G.MIL Unified Network Solutions Program. The company plans to launch this payload into orbit in 2024, marking a significant step in bringing 5G’s capabilities to space and demonstrating its potential to connect the globe.
Key Features of the Demonstration
- The Advanced 5G NTN Satellite Base Station executed high-speed data transfers and live video streaming in a simulated satellite orbital pass.
- Using space-hardened flight hardware, the Satellite Base Station connected seamlessly with prototype NTN user equipment on the ground, compliant with 3GPP Release 17 standards.
Transforming Global Communication
Joe Rickers, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for Connectivity, Transport and Access, emphasized the critical role of space layer capabilities in ensuring consistent, secure connectivity and global coverage for 5G communications systems. The Satellite Base Station represents operational hardware ready to integrate into Lockheed Martin’s Tactical Satellite for launch next year.
Advanced Satellite Base Station Architecture
The gNodeB, Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Satellite Base Station for 5G, is designed with several innovative features:
- It includes a full 5G New Radio (NR) Radio Access Network (RAN) stack and a 5G Stand Alone (SA) Core running on space-qualified hardware.
- The system is reprogrammable in orbit using Lockheed Martin’s SmartSat™ software-defined satellite architecture.
- A split architecture allows for a Control Unit (CU) on the ground and a Distributed Unit (DU) on the satellite, enhancing network implementation options.
- It connects to prototype NTN user equipment through a space communications channel emulator.
Implications and Significance
Dan Rice, vice president for Lockheed Martin’s 5G.MIL Programs, highlighted the strategic importance of space-based communications. Regenerative NTN solutions facilitate direct, secure satellite-based communications, offering an alternative to terrestrial networks. Lockheed Martin’s standards-based approach aligns with 3GPP Release 17 and anticipates future regenerative specifications.
Strategic Collaborations and Development
Lockheed Martin collaborated with key subcontractors, including AccelerComm™, Radisys, and Keysight, to develop the regenerative 5G NTN base station. The Advanced 5G Satellite Base Station is integral to Lockheed Martin’s vision of providing comprehensive 5G connectivity. The company has been investing in various hybrid base stations, including space variants, to support diverse customer missions.