Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, has asked Congress for $79.8 million in his fiscal year 2022 unfunded priority list to fund testing of new terminal prototypes that can connect with multiple commercial constellations. The requested amount would continue testing of SpaceX and OneWeb low-Earth-orbit satellite internet service, C4ISRNET reported Thursday.
The U.S. military has faced difficulties related to Artic communications and NORTHCOM suggested that the said investment could encourage companies to develop more polar coverage with their communications satellite constellations in the long term.
The unfunded priority list cited SpaceX’s launch of 10 Starlink satellites into polar orbit in January and the company’s plans to send over a hundred more in summer. OneWeb, which has launched 182 satellites, aims to deliver Arctic coverage by year end.
OneWeb’s plan corresponds to VanHerck’s letter, where stated that 24/7 Arctic coverage will be delivered by several commercial providers around January 2022. VanHerck also said additional funding for Artic communications will be required in FY23 and beyond.
SpaceX’s and OneWeb’s new generation satellites are designed to provide commercial broadband and could increase Arctic connectivity. The satellites are not specifically designed for Arctic communications, rather they are intended to provide internet access to any location on Earth from orbit.