Boeing FAB-T System Clears Pair of Testing Milestones

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A secure U.S. military satellite terminal system designed to link the president to senior national leaders and strategic forces during wartime has cleared two key testing milestones, including a demonstration of its ability to control payloads aboard the satellites that provide the bandwidth, according to a Jan. 29 press release issued by Boeing Defense, Space & Security of St. Louis.

Boeing is prime contractor on the U.S. Air Force’s Family of Beyond Line-of-Sight Terminals, or FAB-T, program. The company said it completed software qualification testing and systems integration testing for the FAB-T program at the end of last year.

The terminals work with both the new Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) and legacy Milstar constellations of highly secure military communications satellites. The AEHF and Milstar systems provide secure, jam-proof links to strategic and tactical forces under all conditions, including that of a nuclear war.

In the press release, Boeing said the systems integration testing, conducted at the company’s Huntington Beach, Calif., facilities, validated FAB-T’s ability to control the strategic communications payloads on the satellites.

“With these significant achievements, Boeing has demonstrated via formal software qualification testing and informal system level integration testing that the Boeing design meets FAB-T’s functional and performance requirements,” Paul Geery, Boeing vice president and FAB-T program manager, said in a written statement. “We’ve also demonstrated AEHF spacecraft control, which is critical to FAB-T’s mission. Our effort is the only industry offering that has demonstrated this capability. FAB-T will enable the Air Force to perform all satellite control functions, including setting up networks, establishing user traffic priorities, and scheduling satellite beams.”

Geery said in an interview with SpaceNews that the process involved more than 2,000 tests with the terminal, including on aircraft.

Boeing has encountered technical problems on the FAB-T program that have delayed development and driven up costs. The Air Force last year modified Boeing’s FAB-T contract from a cost-plus to a fixed-price arrangement — the company now is responsible for covering cost overruns on the program — and awarded Raytheon Co. of Waltham, Mass., a contract to develop a competing FAB-T system.