Alcatel to Build ESA Herschel and Planck Research Satellites

The European Space Agency has selected Alcatel Space to build, test and launch its Herschel and Planck science satellites in a $332 M deal that is being billed as Europe's largest ever space science award. With Astrium and Alenia Aerospazio acting as major subcontractors, the two vehicles are scheduled to be launched aboard an Ariane 5E-SV booster during February 2007. Of the two, the 9 m long, 3300 kg Herschel vehicle is to be equipped with a 3.5 m diameter, cryogenically cooled telescope which will be used to study the evolution of stars and galaxies. Sources suggest that the vehicle is intended to operate for a three-year period, will incorporate spectrometers and photometers for short wavelength observations and will have approximately 10 times the sensitivity of the ESA's Infra-Red Space Observatory that was launched during 1995. Within the described consortium, Astrium is expected to develop Herschel's cryogenic system with Alenia producing its service module and Alcatel performing the required system integration and testing.

For its part, the 1500 kg Planck vehicle is designed to detect the background cosmic microwave radiation that was left over from the big bang, which is believed to have created the universe as we know it. Equipped with a 1.5 m telescope, Planck is intended to have an orbital life of 18 months and is expected to offer a magnitude greater sensitivity than NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer that was launched during the late 1980s. The Planck satellite is to be built, integrated and tested by Alcatel with Alenia supplying its service module. If successful, the two satellites will be positioned at the L2 Langrangian point of the Sun-Earth system, some 1.5 million km from the Earth in the opposite direction to the Sun.

Collins Wins Airbus Ethernet Award

US contractor Rockwell Collins has been selected to supply Ethernet avionics communications switches for use aboard the next generation Airbus A380 super carrier airliner. Billed as being a first in the commercial aircraft field, the new architecture will incorporate up to 10 switching modules and will be able to manage all the traffic on the A380's 100 Mbit/s full duplex avionics network. Rockwell Collins was in competition with Thales for the contract and that the A380 Ethernet application may be as much as a thousand times faster than the ARINC 429 compliant databus fitted aboard other Airbus aircraft. As noted earlier, the A380 Ethernet application will be the first full 100 Mbit/s avionics network to be fitted to an airliner and analysts suggest that the associated ARINC 644 flight critical Ethernet standard will become the network standard of choice as the need for bandwidth increases with the growth in avionic data communications requirements.

R & S Launches New Medium Class Spectrum Analyzers

German contractor Rohde and Schwarz has announced that it is marketing the Advantest R3172 and R3182 spectrum analysers that are aimed at mobile radio, radar and satellite applications within the 26.5 to 40.0 GHz frequency range. Each device is fitted with a common 16.5 cm colour display with refresh and sweep rates of 20 traces/s and 10 ms, respectively. The display format is also noted as having a 100 dB logarithmic range to facilitate the display of large level differences. With the addition of external mixers, both analysers can be extended up to 325 GHz and parameters such as bandwidth, power measurement mode, frequency modulation deviation and amplitude modulation depth of both audio and video signals are selected via softkey menus. An integrated, 1 Hz resolution counter is noted as eliminating the need for add-ons and a pass/fail comparator provides a visual check of compliance with specified limit values. Autotune allows the strongest detected signal to be centered onscreen and displayed with an expanded frequency range with a single keystroke. Keystrokes are also used to trigger noise, adjacent channel power and noise signal emission measurements. Both equipments are fitted with an amplitude/frequency modulation demodulator with a headphone output and four detectors. Standard IEC/IEEE compliant bus and RS 232 interfaces are complimented by a parallel printer interface and an MS-DOS compatible disk drive. This latter item is used for result documentation and for inputting set up parameters and waveforms when the equipment is integrated with a Windows application. Of the two, the R3182 device has a noise floor of ­106 dBm (at 1 kHz resolution bandwidth and 40 GHz centre frequency) and sideband noise of ­85 dBc/Hz between 29.5 and 40 GHz, with a 20 kHz carrier offset.

ONCAP Completes Purchase of BAE Systems Canada

In the ever changing world of electronics contractors, Canadian investment partnership ONCAP (an Onex Corp. subsidiary) has completed its purchase of BAE Systems Canada and has re-branded the business as CMC Electronics Inc. Elsewhere in the world, Swedish contractor Saab AB has announced that it is purchasing the 49.9 percent share of Ericsson Saab Avionics AB held by Ericsson Microwave Systems AB for a consideration of SeK 225 million. Created in 1997, Ericsson Saab Avionics employs some 750 people and is heavily involved in the production of avionic and electronic warfare systems for Sweden's JAS 39 Gripen fourth generation combat aircraft.

Philips Bluetooth™ Announces Launch of Babyboard Demonstration Kit

Early June 2001 has seen Netherlands contractor Philips Semiconductors announce the formation of a Bluetooth alliance with US contractor the Tality Corp. and the launch of a new Bluetooth babyboard demonstration kit. In the first instance, the Philips-Tality strategic partnership is designed to facilitate the provision of complete, embedded Bluetooth system solutions that both significantly reduce product time to market and increase the probability of first time interoperability. The achievement of these goals involves a family of Tality developed Bluetooth modules that incorporate Philips sourced baseband and radio frequency integrated circuits together with Tality's proven protocol stack and application profiles. Within the partnership, Tality also provides complimentary system integration services to provide customers with what are described as 'complete [Bluetooth] custom product solution[s].' The alliance's Bluetooth modules will be available under licence for use by customers who wish to undertake their own system designs and the first of the series (measuring 21 x 15 mm) was scheduled for release during the second quarter of 2001.

Philips' Bluetooth babyboard demonstrator is designed to allow users to develop upper layer software for communications, computing, automotive and home appliance Bluetooth applications in a safe test environment. Developed jointly by the Philips Semiconductors and Consumer Communications, the new device is based on Semiconductors' PCF 87750 Blueberry baseband controller and its UAA3558 radio chip. Of these, the Blueberry device is described as being a second-generation integrated circuit (IC) that provides an integrated, one-chip, baseband solution for Bluetooth wireless technology applications. PCF 87750 requires no external Flash memory and Philips notes that it is currently working on derivatives of the basic device for use in dedicated data and voice applications. The UAA3558 BiCMOS IC features a fully integrated receiver (from antenna filter output to the demodulated data output), an integrated velocity controlled oscillator, a synthesiser (for Bluetooth channel frequency implementation) and a transmitter preamplifier to drive either an antenna switch diode or a power amplifier. Starting in June of this year, the described babyboard will be available in two configurations: a two babyboard plus cabling reduced format for point-to-point applications and a three babyboard plus cabling full configuration for point-to-multipoint applications. *