Lockheed Martin has achieved a significant milestone in its 5G.MIL technology by successfully demonstrating its space-based capability in a lab environment. The company has validated that its space payload can deliver advanced communications capabilities globally from orbit. This demonstration featured the industry’s first fully regenerative Advanced 5G non-terrestrial network (NTN) satellite base station, which is part of Lockheed Martin’s 5G.MIL Unified Network Solutions program.
The Advanced Satellite Base Station for 5G, also known as gNodeB, includes a full 5G new radio (NR) radio-access network stack, RAN intelligent controller, and 5G stand-alone core. It operates using space-qualified flight hardware and can be reprogrammed on orbit using Lockheed Martin’s SmartSat software-defined satellite architecture. The base station connects to industry-leading prototype NTN user equipment through a space communications channel emulator designed for satellite low-Earth orbit.
Lockheed Martin’s Vice President for 5G.MIL programs, Dan Rice, explains that space-based communications will provide high-speed backhaul to land, air, and sea hybrid base stations. It will also enable direct access to user equipment running 3GPP NTN standard protocols from orbit. This regenerative NTN solution allows for secure communications between users in a coverage area without relying on vulnerable terrestrial networks.
Joe Rickers, Lockheed Martin’s Vice President for connectivity, transport, and access, emphasizes the importance of space layer capabilities for consistent and secure connectivity in global 5G communications systems. It will especially support joint all-domain command and control operations in austere environments, remote locations, and contested areas.
During the lab demonstration, the Advanced 5G NTN satellite base station successfully performed high-speed data transfers and connected with prototype NTN user equipment compliant with the 3GPP Release 17 5G standard. The system demonstrated improved radio flexibility and low latency, facilitating the transfer of data, including live video streaming, during a simulated satellite orbital pass.
Lockheed Martin has collaborated with key subcontractors such as AccelerComm, Radisys, and Keysight to develop and test the regenerative 5G NTN base station. AccelerComm’s CEO, Tom Cronk, comments on the potential of 5G satellite communication to unlock new services and applications for government organizations and individuals. He highlights the significance of a space-deployed, scalable 3GPP Release 17 compatible 5G gNodeB in proving the reality of 5G NTN communications.
Lockheed Martin plans to launch this payload to orbit in 2024 as part of a self-funded mission, bringing the capabilities of 5G to “the final frontier” and further demonstrating its ability to connect the globe.