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Satellite Crosslink Marks New Era in Space Communications

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 3, 1996 – Defense officials said a new era for space-based communications began last month when two military satellites sent messages to each other without first sending the data through ground stations.

"A new era of military [command and communications] capability has recently been inaugurated," said Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the message. "The first technological handshake in space using Milstar crosslinks reflects both the cooperative spirit of joint operations and the magnificent information age warfighting advantages available to America."

First conveyed at 10:52 p.m. Eastern time via the Milstar satellite communications system, military officials said the message represents a crucial step in the evolution of the program. The Air Force's Space and Missile System Center's Joint Program Office acquired and developed Milstar to provide secure, jam-free communications and worldwide connectivity to authorized users.

Shalikashvili's transmission originated from the National Military Command Center Terminal at Fort Belvoir, Va., through the first Milstar satellite, placed in orbit in February 1994. It was crosslinked to the second Milstar, launched last month, then downlinked to commanders at Pacific Command at Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, and the U.S. Atlantic Command at Norfolk, Va.

Milstar employs intersatellite communication antennas known as crosslinks to provide space-based worldwide communications. Crosslinks support the existing low-and future medium-data rates transmitted via the configuration, so that any message can be uplinked to space and routed around the formation. It then can downlink to a destination terminal without using ground-based relay stations.

Officials say the crosslink payload provides secure intersatellite communications by using specific frequencies and high-gain, narrow-beam antennas. When completed in four years, Milstar will have four satellites in geosynchronous orbit with crosslinking capability. This will provide interconnections worldwide while requiring only one ground station on friendly soil.

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