[en] This paper introduces the concept of multi-connectivity (MC) to the multi-orbit non-terrestrial networks (NTNs), where user terminals can be served by more than one satellite to achieve higher peak throughput. MC is a technique initially introduced by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) for terrestrial communications in 4G and 5G, it has shown much gain in the terrestrial domain and this paper explores areas where this concept can benefit the satellite domain.
MC can increase throughput, but this entails increased power consumption at user terminal for uplink transmissions. The energy efficiency of uplink communications can be improved by designing efficient scheduling schemes, and to this end, we developed a terminal aware multi-connectivity scheduling algorithm. This proposed algorithm uses the available radio resources and propagation information to intelligently define a dynamic resource allocation pattern, that optimally routes traffic so as to maximize uplink data rate while minimizing the energy consumption at the UT. The algorithm operates with the terminal differentiating multi-layer NTN resource scheduling architecture, which has a softwarized dispatcher at the network layer that classifies and differentiates the packets based on terminal type. The performance of the proposed algorithm was compared with round robin and joint carrier schedulers in terms of uplink data rate and energy efficiency. We also provide architectural design of implementable schedulers for multi-orbital satellite networks that can operate with different classes of terminals.