International Report

R & S Launch First Officially Validated GSM 850 Protocol Test Platform

With its eyes firmly fixed on the 2002 introduction of the new Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) 850 mobile radio standard by US telecommunications providers such as AT&T, German contractor Rohde & Schwarz (R & S) has launched its CRTU-G universal protocol tester which it claims as being the first officially validated GSM 850 protocol test platform to come to the market place. GSM 850 is reported as offering faster data services and higher capacity than the widely used IS-136 digital mobile telephony standard that is based on time division multiple access technology. As such, CRTU-G (and its associated TS8950G radio frequency test system) is designed to run third generation partnership protocol (3GPP) tests to the GSM 850 standard, with the 10 MHz to 2.7 GHz CRTU-G/TS8950G combination providing all official 3GPP test cases for GSM and general packet radio service (GPRS) conformance testing. Here, GMS 850 cases are software implemented. Other features include protocol layer analysis (through to the application layer), a programming interface (for modifying existing 3GPP test cases and creating customised test scenarios), a graphical user interface, automated test sequences and the use of standardised interfaces and National Instruments Laboratory Windows CVI programming language to facilitate integration into existing automated laboratory solutions. R & S further reports that the CRTU-G/TS8950G combination can be easily upgraded to accommodate GSM, GPRS and wideband code division multiple access (WCDMA) standard testing.

France Launches Next-generation AGI Programme

France's Service des Programmes Navals de la Délégation Générale pour l'Armement (the Naval Procurement Directorate of France's Defence Procurement Agency) has selected the international defence conglomerate Thales to act as prime contractor on its next-generation signals intelligence (SIGINT) vessel (type abbreviation AGI) and its MINREM (Moyen Interarmées Navalisé de Reseignement d'origine Electro Magnétique) mission system. Valued at Euro 100 million plus, the new programme will provide a successor to the Bougainville, the French Navy's existing electronic reconnaissance vessel. Thales Naval France will act as prime and project manager and will undertake prime level engineering, functional integration and acceptance testing. Elsewhere, Thales Communications will act as prime on the ship's MINREM payload, with responsibility for both its communications and electronic intelligence (COMINT/ELINT) capabilities, its information technology requirements and its internal and external communications requirements. Thales Airborne Systems is to supply the vessel's ELINT subsystem, with shipbuilder Compagnie Nationale de Navigation (and its subsidiary Compagnie Maritime Nantaise) supplying the hull. As such, the new AGI is to be built in the Netherlands prior to fitting out in France. The as yet un-named vessel is described as being 100 m long with accommodation for a crew of 30 and 78 mission specialists. Platform features include a stabilisation system capable of allowing the ship to transit Sea State 3 and 6 conditions at 16 and 10 knots, respectively, a helicopter landing pad and provision for underway replenishment and refueling. The new capability is further noted as featuring an open architecture (giving the MINREM suite a design life of 15 years) and is billed as being a key component of France's joint forces communications, command, control and intelligence system. Intelligence collection sorties will be of several months duration and will be undertaken at the behest of France's Direction de Renseignement Militaire (Military Intelligence Directorate). The new vessel's hull is designed for a service life of 30 years while for its part, the Bougainville (Pennant Number L 9077) appears to have been originally built as an amphibious warfare vessel and has subsequently been modified for the SIGINT role during the late 1990s. Currently, Bougainville is based at Toulon, France.

SOSTAR on Track

Following a 10-month interregnum, the SOSTAR GmbH consortium (made up of France's Thales Airborne Systems (28 percent workshare), Germany's EADS Dornier (28 percent), Holland's Fokker Space (5 percent), Italy's FIAR (28 percent) and Spain's Indra (11 percent)) has received a 10-year Euro 85 million ($79 M) contract covering the development, manufacturing and testing of the Stand-Off Surveillance and Target Acquisition Radar (SOSTAR) - X technology demonstrator. Designed to provide the basis of a European solution to the NATO airborne Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) requirement, SOSTAR-X is based around an EADS/Thales-developed, scalable (from 1.5 to 6.0 m plus) active array that incorporates existing Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuit (MMIC) and gallium arsenide transceiver module technology. Here, the gallium arsenide technology is derived from work done within the multinational Airborne Multifunction Solid-state Active array Radar (AMSAR) programme. At the time of going to press, the SOSTAR system was scheduled to be deployed aboard a Fokker 100 testbed aircraft during 2004/2005. Here, the application will incorporate a 3 m antenna array, three operator workstations (devoted to target acquisition, processing and operational control, respectively) and a datalink system for downlinking radar data to an associated ground station for information processing, evaluation and dissemination. In terms of the AGS programme, SOSTAR technology is being pitched against the Northrop Grumman/Raytheon developed Radar Technology Insertion Program (RTIP) scalable, active, electronically scanned radar package.

Intelsat Chooses Sea Launch for 2003 Satellite Launch

Wholesale Internet, broadcast, telephony and corporate network solution provider Intelsat has selected the Sea Launch Co. to loft its Intelsat X spacecraft into a geosynchronous orbit over the Atlantic during 2003. Weighing in at 5700 kg, Intelsat X has been designed and built by European contractor Astrium and makes use of the company's Eurostar E3000 high power bus. Carrying a payload that includes both C- (4 to 8 GHz) and Ku-band (12.5 to 18 GHz) transponders, Intelsat X is quoted as having a payload power value that is in the order of 8 kW. For its part, Sea Launch will use a 6000 kg capacity Zenit-3SL rocket as the launch vehicle.

Japan to Demonstrate New Telecommunications Satellite Components

The Japanese Space Agency was proceeding with the 3 February 2002 launch of an H2A2024 rocket carrying two experimental satellites, the Mission Demonstration Test (MDT) 2 and the Demonstrator of Atmospheric Re-entry System with Hyper-velocity (DASH) vehicles. Of these, the 450 kg MDT2 is described as being a scale model of a communications satellite that is designed to test a range of new technology components that could be applicable to future operational spacecraft. As such, the 900 W MDT2 features three-axis stabilisation and is intended for positioning in a geostationary orbit. Components to be tested include commercial semiconductors, differing types of solar cell and new battery technology. The vehicle also incorporates a solid-state data recorder, a control computer and environment and radiation monitoring sensors. The 86 kg, spin stabilised DASH device is intended to evaluate technologies and profiles that could be used in future planetary exploration probes. If successful, DASH's 19 kg, 400 mm diameter re-entry capsule will travel through the atmosphere at a velocity of approximately 10 km/s before making a parachute landing.