Challenge Athena has provided a convincing demonstration to the Navy that:
High-data-rate satellite communications links to ships at sea are extremely valuable; and
Use of commercial satellite communications technology and systems is a cost-effective way to obtain reliable, high-quality, high-data-rate services.
In late 1996, an ACTS mobile terminal was installed aboard the USS Princeton (CG-59), an Aegis guided-missile cruiser, to demonstrate naval applications at 1.5 Mb/s. A primary purpose of this installation is to demonstrate the capability of loading the large Aegis missile database while the ship is at sea. Future plans as part of Project Aries are to use the NASA ACTS and tracking and data relay satellites (TDRS) to provide data links to ships at sea at 6 to 10 Mb/s at both Ku- and Ka-bands.
Over the years, the Navy has been the primary proponent of satellite broadcast services, stemming from the widespread use of HF fleet broadcast in earlier days. Because of this interest, a wide-band 20-GHz broadcast capability is being added to a future UHF follow-on (UFO) satellite for DOD use.
Satellite communications is a dynamic, high-technology, international, commercially successful enterprise, capable of providing a wide variety of services, in a reliable, cost-effective manner, to users of many types.
Commercial satellite communications systems offer a wider array of services, some with higher performance, and most at lower cost than the Defense Satellite Communication System (DSCS) or other military satellite communications systems.
Commercially available mobile and broadcast satellite communications services offer extremely valuable cost-effective capabilities to the Navy.
Commercially available medium-data-rate satellite communications services (1.5 to 45 Mb/s) and high-data-rate services (>155 Mb/s) now being demonstrated offer the potential of new and innovative capabilities to the Navy.