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Broadband satellite communication systems play a more and more important role in the global information infrastructure, but it still remains a challenging problem for the satellite data link to support ATM services because of its high error rate and the onboard processing limitation. This paper investigates concatenated coding as a means of improving and optimizing the data link performance. Taking the burst error characteristic of satellite links and ATM cell format into account, several coding schemes are evaluated by simulations. A concatenated coding scheme is therefore presented that can not only get fibre-like performance but also has the ability to correct long burst errors. The new scheme concatenates an outer RS code and an inner convolutional code, and can be implemented at a low complexity. Experiments show that it is practical and applicable for onboard applications.