Russo-French Tie-up Targets Mars Exploration

French space system contractor Alcatel Space has teamed with Russia's Babakin Space Centre to develop elements of France's Premier Mars exploration programme. Under the deal, the Babakin Centre will take responsibility for the design, development and production of the landing system to be used on four of the programme's NetLander mission atmospheric descent modules. The technology envisaged is inherited from the Mars 96 mission and makes use of parachute breaking and an arrangement of airbags and a distancing line to cushion and facilitate a soft landing prior to payload deployment. Alongside this latest effort, Alcatel and the Babakin Centre are already jointly developing the six-wheeled Lama robotic rover vehicle for use in planetary surface exploration missions.

Saab Ericsson Delivers ASTRA 1K Sensor System

Swedish contractor Saab Ericsson Space has delivered a radio frequency sensing system (RFSS) for use on the Luxembourg-based Société Européenne des Satellites' ASTRA 1K communications satellite. Comprising a highly stable, 400 mm diameter reflector antenna and an associated receiver, the RFSS is designed to measure the electrical pointing of the satellite with reference to a ground control station. With a resolution of 1/1000 of a degree and a claimed accuracy of within 1/100 of a degree over a 13-year orbital life, the system will generate the data needed to adjust the satellite's pointing. Here, there is a heavy emphasis on using the system to guarantee isolation between coverage areas where frequency reuse is being applied. Development and verification of the RFSS is reported to have taken three years and ASTRA 1K (billed as the world's largest communications satellite) is scheduled for launch during the second half of 2001.

US Downturn Fuels Global Telecommunications Meltdown

The US-led global downturn in telecommunications equipment sales has claimed its latest victim in the form of UK medical equipment-to-telecommunications contractor Marconi who, at the close of business on 4 July 2001, issued a 50 percent profits cut warning and announced that it will shed more than 10,000 jobs by year's end. Marconi is but the latest casualty in a global slump that has seen US telecommunications giants Lucent and Cisco slide into the red and slash jobs, Canadian contractor Nortel cut 30,000 jobs and forecast a $19.2 B second quarter loss, Motorola close down its Scottish manufacturing base, German contractor Siemens announce 2000 job cuts, Swedish telecommunications giant slash more than 12,000 jobs worldwide and world telecommunications leader Nokia issue profits warnings. Analysts suggest that much of the sector is gambling on US President George W. Bush's tax cuts kick starting sales in the US economy and that any US upturn will have a knock-on effect on the global market place.

Israel Wins Canadian EW Contract

Canada has selected Israeli contractor Elisra Electronic Systems to supply it with an electronic warfare (EW) defensive aids package for installation aboard Canadian Forces CH-146 Griffon helicopters. Derived from the Bell Model 412EP helicopter, Canada uses its Griffons in a number of roles including transport, search and rescue, and armed battlefield support. Valued at C$25 M, the new deal sees Elisra supplying the Canadian Forces with17 SPS-65(V) integrated radar and laser threat warning system, support for in-country installation of the equipment and assistance with the future integrating of the capability with a missile approach warning and a countermeasures dispenser. Ten of the 17 systems have been delivered, with the remaining examples (together with what are termed hardware and software 'upgrades') to follow in the near future. As described by its manufacturer, SPS-65(V) is made up of the SPS-20(V) and SRS-25 radar receivers, and the LWS-20 laser warner. Of these, the SPS-20(V) and SRS-25 receivers provide coverage of the 2 to 18 GHz frequency band and are described as being effective against pulsed, continuous wave, high pulse repetition frequency and low effective radiated power emitters. For its part, the LWS-20 detects pulsed laser threats, identifies them and displays them (alongside identified radar threats) on a single cockpit display unit.

Elsewhere in the world, Elisra used the opening of the 2001 Paris Air Show to announce that it had signed a teaming agreement with Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems Integration International Inc. (NGESII) to manufacture and supply an integrated missile warning and countermeasures system for helicopter applications. Here, Elisra is supplying its Passive Approach Warning System (PAWS) missile warner while NGESII is contributing its Directed Infra-Red CounterMeasures System (DIRCM). Functionally, the described system detects the IR signature of incoming missiles and uses the acquired data to direct a DIRCM head onto the threat and 'blind' its seeker with a high energy decoy output. The PAWS-DIRCM combination is understood to be under consideration for use on Israeli military helicopters, with any potential system production for such a market being headed-up by Elisra.

Thales Plans Airborne Electronics Demonstrator

International electronics contractor Thales plans to field a dedicated airborne electronics demonstrator in time for the summer 2002 Farnborough International Air Show. Based on a DC-9 airliner airframe, the new airborne laboratory is intended to allow potential customers to view Thales' range of airborne electronic warfare and surveillance products operating in a realistic environment. The platform will feature a nine-seat VIP area, roll-on/roll-off equipment racking and a representative fast jet cockpit. Of these, the VIP area will be equipped with facilities for the real-time display of equipment function and as briefed, the demonstrator will be equipped with an internalised variant of Thales' ASTAC electronic intelligence system and is likely to be used to demonstrate the company's range of airborne electronic warfare systems.

Siemens and NEC Agree to 3G Accord

Despite its problems downsizing, German telecommunications equipment provider Siemens is pushing ahead with a united front third generation (3G) mobile communications accord with Japanese producer NEC. Under the arrangement, both companies are to observe the recommendations of the 3G Partnership Project international standardisation body and will unify their Time Division Duplex (TDD)-based 3G solutions with the Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access (TD-SCDMA) radio technology that has been jointly developed with China's Academy of Telecommunications Technology. Here, Siemens notes that it has already demonstrated TDD 3G technology with a data rate of 2 Mbit/s and that TD-SCDMA enhanced TDD forms a good basis for a universal terrestrial radio access TDD standard that would facilitate a truly effective international roaming capability. Expected to be commercially available by the end of 2002, the introduction of TD-SCDMA technology is also anticipated as enabling the introduction of area-wide usage applications in the short to medium term. *