An improved multi-beam bent-pipe communications satellite system and method includes a subchannel switching processor for extracting and switching subchannels ol information to and from a plurality ol uplink and downlink beams and an intersatellite link for routing certain ol the extracted subchannels to another satellite in the system. The subchannel switching processor prelerably employs a partial subchannelization processor that combines a coaxial switching network for switching some ol the uplink channels at the channel level with an analog or digital transparent subchannel switching network connected to a portion ol the uplink channels for extracting and switching at the subchannel level. The switched subchannels are combined to form channels, and then routed to either the downlink beams (where they are combined with other switched channels), or to the intersatellite link for transmission to another satellite. The system ol the present invention could be a constellation ol satellites, each satellite in the constellation connected to a plurality ol other satellites using a plurality ol intersatellite links.
28 Claims, 11 Drawing Sheets