Airbus Defence and Space recently sponsored and attended the 2022 edition of IET Milsatcoms (theiet.org), a two day conference providing delegates with the opportunities to discuss issues, share strategies and network with government decision makers, lead satellite providers and system integrators all under one roof. On the first day of the conference, Nick Bolan, our UK Future Satcom Solution Lead, explored what it means to be a solution lead working to develop, define and deliver Milsatcom solutions, as well as some of the ways that the industry could create innovative solutions to the challenges our customers face.
The Milsatcom ‘Problem Space’
Calling upon his rich and varied experience gathered during his time within the UK Ministry of Defence, Nick first explored the ‘problem space’ within the industry, identifying a few relevant themes including environmental threats and technical challenges…
“As the technologies that we employ are becoming increasingly advanced and multi-disciplinary, and as we move toward a paradigm where the breadth of architectural choices available to us, in terms of things like constellation configuration, access to spectrum, waveform design, terminal design and so on, essentially creates an environment where any network configuration becomes possible. But, as engineers we must really invest in understanding what is plausible… What will offer the biggest and most beneficial impact to the end user and how do we make it accessible to them now!”
Understanding that the ‘problem space’ is inevitably much larger and far more nuanced than just the four or five themes identified during this short session, Nick then explained how industry players could consider it in their future solutions…
“Fundamentally it’s all about complexity - the ever increasing range of possibilities creates complexity and that is the real engineering challenge here. From a solution perspective, how do you manage complexity? … As engineers, the challenge is how do we best to leverage this complexity to the point where we can deliver the most cost effective technological solutions and developments that deliver the greatest possible positive impact to the end user”
Despite having only been in his position for just a few weeks by the time of this speech, Nick went on to use a variety of real-world examples to demonstrate just how this positive impact could be achieved - for example through using tried and tested systems engineering approaches such as Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) as a framework to deliver assured and enhanced collaborative working, in addition to highlighting technological developments in Software Defined Networking and on orbit testing platforms such as Prometheus as key enablers that will accelerate development for MilSatcom.
Leveraging Complexity, Creating Opportunity & Delivering Benefits
Drawing his speaking slot to a close, Nick recalled his opening statement - what role does solution engineering play in meeting the challenges presented by the Milsatcom domain?
“I think it’s about leveraging complexity, so utilising Model Based Systems Engineering and tried and tested systems engineering methodology to make sense of complexity so we’re able to provide traceability…
It’s about creating opportunities, so using these sorts of approaches in conjunction with other ideas to explore how we can accelerate our understanding of future challenges and develop solutions and trial solutions that meet those challenges.
I think fundamentally it’s about delivering benefits to the end user. It’s about taking these sorts of ideas and integrating them together, using approaches like Software Defined Networking that span multiple technical domains to deliver milsatcoms solutions which add genuine and real value to the end user.”
If you attended the conference in any capacity, you can access a replay of this speaking slot via the event portal.
If you are interested in the conference and would like to learn more, you can access the IET website here.