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USAF Space Command Releases RFI to Drive 5G Wireless Connectivity in Space

4 mins read

The U.S. Air Force’s Space Command has issued a request for information (RFI) for space 5G to improve data transportation for ground and space-based communications. With the space-based transport layers of the next-generation network, the military has the potential to expand its ability to move data, communicate and support enterprise networks with more bandwidth. 

The request has focused on how industry can create and use 5G networks in space operations. The Air Force’s RFI will help connect and network computing power to and from its operators in space. “Any aspect of 5G applied to any aspect of space systems is of potential interest,” the RFI states.

The RFI has included work on “massive MIMO” (multiple input multiple output networks) for spacecraft communications, radio access network (RAN) slicing, artificial intelligence (AI) that can prioritize data streams on networks to speed priority transportation and cybersecurity. 

“5G includes many applications of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML),” according to the RFI. But the Air Force wants to know: “Which 5G AI/ML tools and techniques would provide message stream recognition and content analysis to prioritize stream data rate by content type, potentially storing data in a Multi-tenant Edge Computing (MEC) node and sending it later?”

The RFI follows the Department of Defense’s release of $600 million in awards to support 5G testing and experimentation projects with 15 companies at five U.S. military installations, which was announced in Oct. 2020. 

Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington will work with AT&T, Booz Allen Hamilton, GBL System and Oceus Networks to deploy a 5G network to support experimentation of an augmented reality/virtual reality capability for use in operations, distributed training and mission planning.

Naval Base San Diego in California will come up with a 5G Smart Warehouse in partnership with AT&T, Deloitte, General Electric’s research arm, and Vectrus. The project will focus on transhipment between naval units and shore facilities to improve naval logistics operations.

Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany in Georgia will collaborate with Federated Wireless, GE Research, KPMG and Scientific Research Corp. to develop a 5G-based Smart Warehouse that will focus on vehicular maintenance and storage.

Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada will work with AT&T to create a testbed to assess 5G capabilities to improve distributed command and control.

Hill Air Force Base in Utah will work on a project focused on dynamic spectrum sharing with industry partners General Dynamics’ mission systems business, Nokia, Booz Allen, Key Bridge Wireless, Shared Spectrum and Ericsson.

“The Department of Defense is at the forefront of cutting edge 5G testing and experimentation, which will strengthen our Nation’s warfighting capabilities as well as U.S. economic competitiveness in this critical field,” said Michael Kratsios, acting undersecretary of defense for research and engineering and U.S. chief technology officer as well as a two-time Wash100 Award recipient.