4 mins read 12 Nov 2020

Clearbox Systems and Boeing Defence Australia working on SATCOM

Boeing Defence Australia and Clearbox Systems sign a new agreement to build the next generation of the Australian Military’s satellite communication infrastructure.

Credit: Boeing.

Sydney-based technology company Clearbox Systems has signed an agreement with Boeing Defence Australia (BDA) to collaborate in the next generation of Australia’s military satellite communication (SATCOM) capabilities.

The system called JP9102 (also known as the Australian Defence SATCOM System (ASDSS)), which aims to deliver a system which will enable the joint command and control of deployed Joint Task Forces through resilient and responsive communications beyond the range and capacity of other communication systems.

In the 2016 white paper, the Department of Defence outlines \$3 billion - \$4 billion spending on satellite image surveillance capabilities from the early 2020s through to 2035, and an additional \$1 billion - \$2 billion on Space Situational Awareness and Radar capabilities across most of the decade ahead.

As one of Australia’s largest aerospace enterprises which employ over 2,000 people across 14 sites in Australia, BDA is no stranger to space-based products such as its own fleet of satellites, the well known and connected GPS system, and space-based connectivity services.

It’s this experience that will be combined with Clearbox’s extensive SATCOM software development and integration expertise to deliver the JP9102 program, as part of the requirement outlined by the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

“Clearbox is renowned for its ability to integrate system software into a common and intuitive user interface which makes it easier for systems operators,” said JP9102 Capture Team Lead, Michael Konig.

“It is this ability to stitch together different software in a way that makes it seamless for the user that aligns with Boeing’s proven approach on the complex development programs such as the Currawong Battlespace Communications System and Defence High-Frequency Communications System,” said Konig. 

“The two businesses will collaborate to design a strong solution for JP9102 that provides a low risk, sovereign solution to the ADF’s needs for a flexible, resilient and agile SATCOM system.”

Executive Director at Clearbox Systems, Jeremy Hallett said the company was on a mission to use technology to help Defence better operate and manage their satellite communications networks.

“We already provide our solutions to Defence to allow them to operate their current military and commercial SATCOM systems. It makes sense for us to work with a company such as Boeing to develop a solution for Defence’s next-generation SATCOM system delivered under JP9102,” said Hallett.


Illustration of a SATCOM data relay system. Credit: ESA.

When working on military programs, SATCOM has the capability of providing critical real-time, up to date information about dynamic events (such as the position of aircraft, or imagery of ground-based forces building in different locations) during periods of combat, natural disaster mitigation and territory management.

 But SATCOM is also utilised for civilian purposes – playing a vital role in the global telecommunications network, relaying voice, video, data and signals from the Earth, into space and then back down to Earth.

SATCOM can be considered in two main components (as a basic model) – ground bases, such as antennas and transmitters, and a space-based component (i.e. the satellites) which pick up transmissions, amplify and relay/transmit to where it is required on Earth.

This process can also involve the usage of Earth Observation techniques, with instrumentation that is onboard satellites collecting data (weather, images, radar, heat-maps, etc.) from orbit and transmitting this back to Earth.

In the past, communication satellites have been high-mass large objects with bulky components that were both expensive and risky to launch into space. These days, with the advantage of computer processing power shrinking in size, whilst increasing in technical capability – the opportunities of utilising SATCOM is not limited to only military operators, but being harnessed by wider industries, as CubeSats and lowered launch costs revolutionise access and usage of space-based services.