WASHINGTON — Raytheon Technologies on Sept. 10 received a $13 million contract to test the use of commercial space internet services on military aircraft.

Raytheon is one of several major defense contractors selected by the U.S. Air Force for the program known as “defense experimentation using commercial space internet,” or DEUCSI.

The program was created to help the military figure out the steps involved and the potential cost of using commercial satellite broadband services — such as SpaceX’s Starlink, SES’s O3B and others — to connect military aircraft, ground vehicles and ships.

The military wants to know if military platforms can communicate with multiple commercial space internet constellations using common terminals.

The selection of Raytheon for the DEUCSI program follows a $9 million award to Ball Aerospace last month for the same type of work. Last year the Air Force awarded similar contracts to L3Harris, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin.

The central task for these companies over the next three years is to help the Air Force understand the technical issues associated with equipping military platforms with communications terminals that can talk to satellites from multiple broadband providers.

“An important aspect of using commercial space internet capabilities effectively and affordably for defense purposes is the ability to switch between space internet providers as operational and business needs change,” says the DEUCSI solicitation.

For example, an Air Force pilot using the space internet may wish to change vendors in flight to access a more favorable spectrum or geometry. Under the DEUCSI program, the Air Force, Army and Navy want to conduct “experiments in vendor flexibility to understand methods by which the government may position itself to affordably and efficiently leverage multiple commercial providers of space internet.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...