PARIS — Kratos Defense and Security Solutions on Nov. 2 said its satellite communications business was in a strong growth phase and that Kratos management had no intention of selling it — or the company’s microwave or training divisions — to focus on unmanned air systems.
The question, during a Nov. 2 investor call, was an occasion for Kratos Chief Executive Eric M. DeMarco to say that while the relatively young and massively growing unmanned systems division is getting the attention, the satcom business is also positioned for growth.
“In the 2018 DOD [U.S. Defense Department] budget request, space and satellite-related funding lines received one of the largest increases in request over the prior year, which is directly related to the perceived threats to U.S. space capabilities,” DeMarco said.
“We are more focused than ever on satellite communications” and the other businesses, he said, not just unmanned systems, whose growth — a 127% increase in revenue for the three months ending Oct. 1 compared to the same period last year — is a natural focus of investor attention, he said.
Partly because much of Kratos’ work is classified, and partly because of the way the company groups is businesses into three divisions, it is difficult to clearly assess the volume of business Kratos does in satcom-related work.
The company says it has at least some role on 85% of all U.S. government space missions and that more than 75% of the world’s commercial satellite fleet operators are Kratos customers.
Among its headline U.S. military programs are Wideband Global Satcom, Advanced EHF, the Space-Based Infrared System and the Mobile User Objective System.
DeMarco said the company is also ming into the “small, cube- and nano-sat programs,” a focus on much smaller satellites that has been identified by the U.S. military as one way to provide in-orbit resistance to attack by spreading capacity over a large number of assets.
Kratos is perhaps best known for its radio-frequency interference mitigation and geo-location capability. The company has a global network of 18 monitoring sites, with more than 70 antennas looking at 60-plus satellites’ 150 beams on 280 transponders.
Its satID geolocation service is intended to provide satellite fleet owners with the ability to pinpoint the sources of interference to within 5 kilometers.
Interference has not been a major problem in the Americas or Europe, but Middle East, African and Asian fleet operators have said it’s a problem they cannot afford. Most of the interference is accidental — a poorly aimed ground antenna — and examples of intentional interference have been both political and commercial in nature.
Recent Kratos customers include Sky Perfect JSat of Japan, which has purchased satID; the Arabsat consortium of Saudi Arabia, which hired Kratos for fleet operations; the government of Oman, which purchased Kratos’ Advanced Space Radio Monitoring system to manage radio spectrum; and Yahsat of the United Arab Emirates, which is using Kratos for command and control for the Al Yah 3 satellite, scheduled for launch early in 2018.
Mitigating satellite interference and space traffic management in general are both becoming active commercial sectors as the satellite sector comes to see its future growth as dependent on a much better assessment of what’s going on in orbit.
Kratos earlier this year signed an MoU with startup Hawkeye 360, which is planning its own space-based radio-frequency detection and geolocation service. Kratos would provide a ground-based complement to the Hawkeye 360 network.