WASHINGTON — Viasat announced it completed the first satellite broadband upgrade on board a Military Sealift Command ship, and  expects to update 105 vessels over the next year. The work is part of a $578 million contract that Inmarsat won in 2022 before it was acquired by rival satellite operator Viasat.

The U.S. Navy’s sealift organization, responsible for providing ocean transportation to the Department of Defense, operates a fleet of approximately 125 civilian-crewed ships that replenish Navy vessels at sea, transporting military equipment and personnel, and strategically positioning cargo around the world.

Viasat is revamping the ships’ satellite network from Ku-band to the company’s Global Xpress Ka-band and the ELERA L-band systems.

Dual-band network

Steve Gizinski, managing director of Viasat Government Services, said the company is providing a fully managed service to the Military Sealift Command. It relies on Ka band as the principal broadband connection, backed up by L band service in areas where Ka band signals might not be available. 

Gizinski previously ran Inmarsat Government Services, which is now Viasat Government Services, based in Reston, Virginia.  

The Military Sealift Command needs reliable coverage and high data rates for ships around the world, he said. “In places where perhaps in the past they did not have Ku-band coverage, they were forced to be on L-band. Now, no matter where they go, they have Ka-band access,” Gizinski told SpaceNews.

The upgraded broadband requires two terminals, a Ka-band that Viasat is acquiring from Cobham, and an L-band terminal built internally by Viasat. 

The MSC contract, worth $578 million over 10 years, was awarded in 2022 to Inmarsat Government to upgrade broadband on ships, maintain and operate the command’s communications infrastructure, teleports and terrestrial services.

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...