U.S. Space Command provides extra bandwidth to USNS Mercy hospital ship

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The U.S. Army Satellite Operations Brigade is increasing WGS satcom capacity to the hospital ship.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Space Command units that operate communications satellites are providing additional bandwidth to the USNS Mercy hospital ship that arrived in Los Angeles March 27.

The USNS Mercy, operated by the Military Sealift Command, will offer non-coronavirus medical care so local hospitals can focus on COVID-19 patients.

The leader of U.S. Space Command Gen. John Raymond said units that routinely provide space-based services — satellite communications, weather data, missile warning and GPS navigation — are on the job stateside and at overseas locations, and continue to keep up with the demands despite restrictive health protection measures required during the pandemic.

One specific request related to the coronavirus response is for additional satellite communications capacity for the hospital ship now docked in Los Angeles, Raymond said at a Pentagon news conference on Friday. “We’re meeting bandwidth requests from the USNS Mercy,” he said.

The U.S. Army Satellite Operations Brigade that manages the Wideband Global Satcom satellite payloads at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs is providing the additional bandwidth to the hospital ship, a spokesperson for the Army Space and Missile Defense Command told SpaceNews. SMDC is the Army’s component of U.S. Space Command.

The Hawaii-based Pacific Regional Satellite Communications Support Center (RSSC-PAC), a unit of the U.S. Army Satellite Operations Brigade, responded this week to an urgent request from the USNS Mercy and U.S Indo-Pacific Command for additional bandwidth to enable telemedicine and other online capabilities, the spokesperson said in an email.

“RSSC-PAC quickly moved and re-planned eight existing missions and allocated a new mission on the Wideband Global Satcom system, which doubled the data rate for the USNS Mercy,” said the statement.

So far no additional satcom support has been requested for the other Navy hospital ship, the USNS Comfort. The Comfort is scheduled to get underway from Norfolk, Virginia, on Saturday and will arrive at New York Harbor on Monday to ease the burden of area hospitals tasked with responding to the coronavirus.