XVI (Link-16 CubeSat, AFRL-XVI)

Spacecraft name XVI (Link-16 CubeSat, AFRL-XVI)
Type CubeSat
Units or mass 12U
Status Operational? (York Space Systems announced the first ever Link16 demo from space on 2023-11-28, thus maybe this did not work?)
Launched 2023-06-12
NORAD ID 56942
Deployer Mercury [Maverick]
Launcher Falcon 9 (Transporter-8)
Entity name Viasat
Institution Company
Entity type Commercial
Nation US
Manufacturer AIVT by Blue Canyon
Costs $10 million for the whole project.

Test the first-ever Link 16-capable LEO spacecraft.


The XVI satellite comprises a 12U spacecraft bus manufactured by Blue Canyon Technologies and features a Viasat Link 16 payload as well as Roccor L-Band antenna.

Link 16 is an encrypted radio frequency widely used by the U.S. military and NATO allies to share critical information.

Link 16 terminals are deployed aboard aircraft, land vehicles and ships to facilitate the exchange of data and images in standard message formats.

The pilot project will test the feasibility of using small satellites in low-Earth orbits to relay more and better information to units in the field. Link 16 technology has only been capable of line-of-sight communications.

Demonstrations will see two ground users talking to each other via the XVI satellite, in addition to a ground user communicating with an aircraft a about a hundred miles away.

By demonstrating that Link 16 can operate in a space environment on small satellites, the U.S. military can gain beyond-line-of-sight tactical advantages on the battlefield and ultimately keep our troops safer.

The firm known for deployable spacecraft structures, is working with BluFlux, an antenna technology specialist, to complete environmental testing of the helical L-band antenna for XVI, an Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) program to demonstrate communications relay with a Link 16 terminal on a small satellite. Since the XVI satellite does not offer much room for a deployment mechanism, Roccor worked with BluFlux, both of Louisville, Colorado, to develop and test a two-meter-long helical antenna that stows inside the volume of a two-unit cubesat and extends on-orbit thanks to a slit-tube composite boom.

The XVI cubesat was projected to launch in 2020 but was delayed by supply chain problems. 

Sources [1] [2] [3] [4]
Photo sources [1] [2]
COTS subsystems
  • PLATFORM - Blue Canyon
  • ANTENNA - Roccor
  • ANTENNA - Redwire
  • PAYLOAD - Viasat
Subsystems sources [1]

Last modified: 2023-12-25

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