Regenerative NTN 5G satellite base station prepared for orbit

Regenerative NTN 5G satellite base station prepared for orbit

Technology News |
By Jean-Pierre Joosting

Lockheed Martin is preparing to demonstrate in orbit how its 5G.MIL® capability can reach all domains around the world, with the first regenerative Advanced 5G Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) satellite base station. A final successful lab demonstration validated that this innovative space payload is set to deliver global advanced communications capabilities from orbit.

During the October demonstration, Lockheed Martin showcased the industry’s first fully regenerative Advanced 5G NTN satellite base station — developed as a space component of the company’s 5G.MIL Unified Network Solutions Program.

In 2024, in a self-funded mission, the company will launch this payload to orbit bringing 5G’s capabilities to the final frontier to prove its capability to connect the globe.


The statellite base station lab demonstration

In a live hardware-in-the-loop lab environment, the Advanced 5G NTN satellite base station performed high-speed data transfers connecting with prototype NTN user equipment, compliant with 3GPP Release 17, an industry standard for improved radio flexibility and low latency. During a simulated satellite orbital pass, the satellite base station, running on space-hardened flight hardware and the user equipment on the ground, successfully connected and transferred data, including live video streaming.

“Space layer capabilities are essential for consistent, secure connectivity and global coverage for 5G communications systems. 5G from space will enable Joint All-Domain Command and Control operations especially in austere environments, remote locations and contested areas,” said Joe Rickers, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for Connectivity, Transport and Access. “Our satellite base station is real, operational hardware and we ready for the next step — integrating this powerful payload into our self-funded Tactical Satellite which will be launched next year.”


Key components and features

The Advanced 5G satellite base station, or gNodeB, as it is technically known includes a full 5G New Radio (NR) Radio Access Network (RAN) stack, RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) and 5G Stand Alone (SA) Core running on space-qualified flight hardware that will fly on the TacSat. It is reprogrammable on orbit using Lockheed Martin’s SmartSat™ software-defined satellite architecture.

The satellite base station can be structured with a split architecture placing the Control Unit (CU) on the ground and the Distributed Unit (DU) on the satellite, further enhancing network implementation options.

Further, it connects to industry-leading prototype NTN user equipment through a space communications channel emulator that introduced doppler and delay parameters consistent with a satellite Low Earth Orbit.

“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’s standards-based approach is compliant with 3GPP Release 17 and was developed in anticipation of pre-Release 18 and 19 regenerative specifications. 5G NTN provides another communications pathway to support ubiquitous, heterogeneous communications across all operational domains in support of customer missions.


Strategic collaboration

Leading up to this successful pre-launch demonstration, Lockheed Martin has developed and integrated the regenerative 5G NTN HBS-Space system over the past 3 years working with key subcontractors:

  1. AccelerComm™ provided an advanced 5G NTN Layer 1 PHY, developed to support Lockheed Martin’s system requirements and space flight hardware specifications.
  2. Radisys supplied 5G NTN Layer 2/3 and 5G SA Core software, working with Lockheed Martin to ensure interface implementation enabled seamless integration with L1 and RIC solutions.
  3. Keysight supported 3GPP standards-based development testing of Lockheed Martin’s regenerative 5G NTN base station via their 5G NTN user equipment simulation (UeSIM) 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.

Tom Cronk, Chief Executive Officer, AccelerComm commented: ”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.”

Vince Nguyen, Vice President/General Manager, Aerospace, Defense, and Government Solutions, Keysight Technologies adds: ”Keysight is collaborating 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.”

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