International Report

Earth Observation Efforts Advance
In unrelated moves, Franco-British contractor Matra Marconi Space (MMS) has acquired National Remote Sensing Centre Ltd. (NRSC) and US contractor Ball Aerospace and Technologies is expected to propose a free-flying, space-based synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The NRSC business, with annual turnover of £6.5 M, is based in Farnborough, Hampshire and Barwell, Leicestershire. Considered one the world’s largest commercial suppliers of aerial and satellite earth observation data and products, MMS’s acquisition of NRSC is expected to complement its core business, improving the overall scope of the company’s space services. (In related news, MMS is in the process of joining with DaimlerChrysler Aerospace to create the ASTRIUM organisation.)

The Ball Aerospace campaign kicks off in the wake of February’s successful Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) and will build upon the company’s experience in producing SRTM antennas. Dubbed the LightSAR concept, the new proposal is a revision of a previous space-based radar mapping concept that was denied NASA funding in 1999 in favour of the Franco-American Pathfinder Instruments for Cloud and Aerosol Spaceborne Observations effort. The most recent LightSAR vehicle is expected to fly in a low earth orbit to collect earth science data in the areas of geology, geophysics and agricultural survey. When compared with the SRTM system, the LightSAR concept features a primary antenna that is larger than the outboard unit and electronics with lower volume and power requirements. Prior to SRTM, Ball Aerospace was responsible for the antennas used in the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C system that was launched in 1994. For the SRTM radar, Ball Aerospace developed an auxiliary reception array that was mounted on a telescopic 60 m mast and used as part of the system’s ability to generate necessary data for three-dimensional imagery.

Australia Acquires Danish and Israeli EW Systems
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has awarded contracts valued at approximately $34 M to Danish contractor TERMA Elektronik and Israeli company Elta Electronics Industries for the installation of electronic warfare (EW) equipment aboard its F-111C strike aircraft. The TERMA contract, which is valued at $4.2 M, will cover the supply of the company’s AN/ALQ-213(V) EW Management System (EWMS). Forming part of an interim defensive aids upgrade, the F-111C EWMS application will combine the aircraft’s radar warning receiver, countermeasures dispensing system and newly procured Elta EL/L-8222 jamming pod into a single control architecture. The acquisition of the L-8222 pod composes the second segment of the F-111C effort and will be acquired in a $30 M programme that involves Australian company Vision Abell acting as Elta’s in-country subcontractor. In addition to the acquisition of the radar jammers, the package includes logistical support, test equipment and software manipulation tools. On a global scale, Australia is the eighth customer to purchase the EWMS since its introduction into service in 1992.

The development of an interim EW fit for the RAAF’s F-111C strike aircraft resulted partly from the suspension of the service’s Echidna programme, which initially was supposed to develop a modular, integrated EW capability that could be applied across a range of Australian front-line aircraft. A major factor in the failure of the first Echidna iteration was the US State Department’s restriction on access to US-sourced EW data, which, in turn, caused Australia to effectively preclude US industry from the bidding process. A resolution to the access problem emerged at an Australian-US Ministerial Acquisition Council meeting in January. Using EW interoperability as the lever, both countries are expected to establish a memorandum of understanding that covers the exchange of EW threat data and the development of an EW co-operation mechanism. Accordingly, US participation is expected when the Australian Department of Defence releases a restructuring plan of the Echidna effort.

Siemens Showcases New Technologies for the Future
German contractor Siemens showcased the SIMpad wireless Web pad, the Internet-controlled C-LAB Pathfinder robot demonstrator, the Voice Butler voice recognition remote control capability, the Bluetooth multidevice automated voice and data exchange interface, and a prototype wireless local area network (WLAN) at the CeBIT 2000 exhibition held in February in Hanover, Germany. The SIMpad wireless Web pad allows users to access the Internet at any time from any location. The prototype weighs slightly more than two pounds and functions as a communications terminal with a graphical interface. The unit can be operated at ranges of up to 150 m from a base station that is connected to a telephone network or a local area network. The SIMpad demonstrator communicates via GMS with the possibility of using General Packet Radio Service or Universal Mobile Telecommunication System links in the future. Developed by Siemens Switzerland, the unit operates from a Windows CE, allowing existing communications capability to be supplemented by third-party software. The C-LAB Pathfinder demonstrator is a small robotic device capable of controlling equipment via commands input into an Internet Web page. Operator feedback takes the form of a video stream generated by an onboard camera. Potential applications include plant automation, home automation and telemedicine. The designation C-LAB is taken from the system’s developer, Siemen’s Innovation Centre at Paderborn University, and the prototype’s interface with the Internet makes use of Apple’s Quicktime 4 software. The Voice Butler prototype is a general-purpose, remote control capability that is based on voice recognition and designed to replace current household infrared remote control devices while providing voice activation for domestic lighting, heating and ventilation systems. The Voice Butler is capable of controlling up to 13 discrete devices, handles instructions from up to four different speakers and accepts commands in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. The WLAN is designed to provide mobile access to personalised network services and information from any device anywhere in the world. Using WLAN technology, users can access personal e-mail accounts, centrally organised schedulers and/or addresses from any mobile terminal compatible with GSM, Bluetooth or similar technology. The Bluetooth interface is a joint effort by Siemens and Fujitsu Siemens Computers, which makes use of a plug-in, cordless communications module that works with a WLAN server. Bluetooth has the capability to seamlessly connect cellular phones, notebooks and desktop personal computers and is expected to be commercially available by this summer.

Philips Introduces FlipChip Variant of DC-to-DC Converter IC
Netherlands contractor Philips Semiconductors has introduced a smaller-sized FlipChip variant of its model TEA1207 DC-to-DC converter IC. The 3.9 mm model TEA1207UK device’s chip-scale package can be easily mounted on a PCB using existing surface-mount equipment. If secured to the PCB with solder bumps or balls, the TEA1207UK will eliminate the need for wire bonding and intermediate-level packaging. Other advantages of the FlipChip variant include improved thermal and electrical performance, the use of standard body sizes and pin counts, and the potential lower cost of ownership. The TEA1207UK is capable of downconverting to 1.25 V while maintaining a 90 percent conversion efficiency for output currents between a few milliamps and 0.5 A. In upconvert mode, the IC can generate an output voltage between 2.8 and 5.5 V from an input voltage greater than 1.8 V with a switching frequency from 220 to 330 kHz (275 kHz (typ)). Designed specifically for applications where low voltage, low power CMOS logic is used to minimise battery drain, the device also features a digital control circuit that uses output voltage level as its control input.