Powering the Internet of Things – From Space

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The modern world, with its technology and global connectedness, has been shaped in many ways by unfolding advancements in satellite technology.

Satellites have enabled smart phones, cable television, ATMs, GPS navigation, climate monitoring and more. And emerging technological advances are bringing into view the Internet of Things – referring to an increasing number of objects gaining a digital footprint and being integrated into a broader network.

As this bold, new world arises, a modernized version of a highly successful Lockheed Martin satellite stands poised to usher in the new era.

AN UNMATCHED LEGACY AND A DARING FUTURE

For almost 20 years, the Lockheed Martin A2100 satellite platform has served various telecommunications needs, providing global broadband, mobile and military communications. More than 40 satellites using the A2100 platform have been delivered, accumulating more than 500 years of service.

But connectivity demands continue to increase, as consumers, developing nations and satellite operators seek greater possibilities. In response, Lockheed Martin in 2013 introduced an enhancement to the A2100.

The modernized A2100 brings multiple advances, such as flexible electrical power; multiple propulsion options, advanced payload capabilities and extended service life. It offers dual-launch capability, saving on launch costs, and a fully reprogrammable mission processor that boosts flexibility by allowing users to modify payload configurations and performance in orbit.

The improved platform means the ability to move more data, a critical selling point for satellite operators.

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“Our customers talk a lot about how many data bits they can deliver over this satellite,” said Barry Noakes, chief engineer for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company’s Commercial Space Line of Business. “They want to know how many phone calls, how many TV channels and how much bank data can this satellite accommodate? They look at it at a dollar per bit. The modernized A2100 allows for greater data transmission at lower costs.” 

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MEETING THE NEED FOR GREATER FLEXIBILITY

According to Noakes, customers want greater flexibility in their satellites, and the A2100 addresses that in large part through its advanced digital processor.

“We have evolved a digital processor to provide increased connectivity,” said Noakes. “The A2100 can bring hundreds of beams, and its digital processor can connect all those beams. You just can’t do that in an analog world; it would be way too heavy.” 

SPACE, THE DOMINANT FRONTIER

Space serves as the primary domain to drive greater global connectivity that can yield new possibilities, whether a user wants to access data from land, at sea or in the air.

“Space is the backbone for moving data around the world,” said Noakes. “If you’re in a car and need access to data, or on a boat and want to download and upload vacation images, or you’re in a plane and want to access the web, the only practical way to do that is space. Those demands just keep increasing.” 

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TAPPING INTO DIGITAL MAGIC

To create the A2100 upgrade, Lockheed Martin employs the Digital Tapestry, a fully integrated electronic domain weaving together all elements of system development into a seamless digital environment.

Through digital tools and increased collaboration, teams cut costs, reduce errors and risk, save time and improve parts commonality, translating to dramatically improved satellite performance and value.

“Through the Digital Tapestry, we reduce the number of errors between the design phase and finished product, we eliminate extra steps and we can design a common product that supports a wide range of business needs,” said Noakes. 

LOOKING AHEAD

The modernized A2100 is not yet in orbit, but soon will be. Recently, Lockheed Martin signed two commercial satellite contracts incorporating the new platform, and the capability is being proposed to multiple customers. As the new A2100 proliferates, Noakes looks forward to working with the team that will make it possible.

“The team I work with is made of some really exceptional people,” said Noakes. “It’s very invigorating to see the innovative ideas that will come out of a group like that, such as how do you reduce cost by 35 percent, or how do you reduce schedule by 25 percent? We have a team that can make those things happen, and more.”