Microwave Journal
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International Report

June 1, 2002

International Report


France and Israel Look to Significantly Enhance the Gilat 360 Broadband Satellite Platform

French space contractor Alcatel Space has reached an agreement in principle to form a strategic partnership with Israeli contractor Gilat Satellite Networks to significantly enhance the latter's Gilat 360 broadband satellite platform. The new agreement, which is part of the two companies' two-way broadband satellite communications joint venture with Luxembourg quoted SES GLOBAL, centres on improving the cost effectiveness, performance and competitiveness of the Gilat 360 design. Other aims include the achievement of seamless integration with terrestrial broadband infrastructures and bringing together the two companies' products in preparation for compliance with future worldwide communications satellite standards.

For its part, the Alcatel/Gilat/SES GLOBAL tie-up is aimed at providing two-way satellite communications services for businesses, consumers and small office/home office (SOHO) customers throughout Europe. Building on an existing strong customer base, the new entity will target a potential European residential market that has been estimated to grow at the rate of 30 percent per year over the period 2003 to 2008. For small and medium sized enterprises, the intention is to offer a complete satellite communications service (provided both directly and via wholesalers) using Gilat's Skystar Advantage® very small aperture terminal (VSAT) and SES's broadband interactive system. For the SOHO market, the partners intend to provide broadband communications services via Gilat's 360 VSAT satellite modem at speeds of up to 20 times higher than those available using dial-up modems.

Elsewhere, Alcatel Space has announced that it is under contract to deliver a new communications satellite (designated as W5) to Eutelsat for launch during the summer of 2002. Based on the company's Spacebus 3000 platform, W5 will be fitted with 24 wideband Ku-band (12.5 to 18.0 GHz) transponders that can be operated simultaneously to provide a fixed, pan-European footprint. Onboard power will be about 6 kW and the 3000 kg (at launch) satellite is designed for an operational life in excess of 12 years.

R & S Wins SIVAM Transceiver Order

German contractor Rohde & Schwarz (R & S) has been awarded a several million Euro contract to supply the Brazilian Air Force with an initial tranche of 152 108 to 400 MHz band M3AR transceivers for installation aboard EMB-314 ALX light strike aircraft that will be employed in Brazil's Sistema de Vigiláncia da Amazónia (SIVAM) programme. Developed over a number of years, SIVAM brings together surveillance and enforcement tools with which to police the Amazon basin and prevent illegal logging, mineral exploitation and smuggling activities in the region. Already procured for use aboard Sweden's JAS 39 Gripen multi-role combat aircraft, M3AR is the airborne version of R & S's Series 6000 family of software-driven, multi-band, multi-function communications systems and is designed to handle normal and electronically protected voice and data traffic. At the time of going to press, M3AR was understood to be available in cockpit, remote control and military data bus variants. As such, the device offers 25 kHz channel spacing in all bands (8.33 kHz in the 118 to 137 MHz sub-band) and is capable of amplitude/frequency and frequency shift keying modulations. Receiver sensitivity (10 dB (S+N)/N) is given as being -101 dBm with an audio output of between 200 and 250 mW. System weight is approximately 4.5 kg. At the time of the contract's announcement, deliveries of M3AR transceivers to Brazil were scheduled to begin during 2002 for a 2003 initial operating capability. Equally, R & S was anticipating supplying a second tranche of 46 such radios into the described programme.

European Imaging Satellite Successfully Launched

The French Space Agency's (the CNES) Spot 5 imaging satellite was successfully placed in an 832 km, sun-synchronous, circular polar orbit by an Ariane 42P rocket on 3 May 2002. Developed in parallel with the Helios II military observation satellite, the 3,000 kg Spot 5 device is described as being designed to offer the best compromise between image resolution and swath width as well as a considerable increase in performance when compared with its immediate predecessor, the Spot 4 vehicle. Spot 5's payload includes a high resolution stereoscopic (HRS) and two high resolution geometric (HRG) instruments, a star sensor, a 90 Gbit solid-state memory, a vegetation instrument (VI) and a Doris station-keeping unit.

Looking at some of these elements in more detail, the satellite's HRS instrument incorporates fore and aft telescopes and can generate digital elevation models (DEM) with an accuracy of 10 m. Here, Spot 5's manufacturer notes that such precision DEMs have a ready market for use in mapping, database, telecommunications, air traffic control and geo-information applications. The two HRG instruments are described as providing multispectral imagery in the B1, B2, B3 and mid infra-red bands and as offering resolutions of 2.5 m, 5 m and 10 m in their super, panchromatic and multispectral modes, respectively. Each HRG operates along a 60 m swath for off-track imaging of ±420 km (±27°). The satellite's star sensor facilitates precise imaging positioning to within 50 m while its solid-state memory is noted as being able to process five image acquisition channels simultaneously and to image telemetry throughput boosted to 2 x 50 Mbps to increase the vehicle's operational capacity. Spot 5's VI operates in the B0m, B2 and mid IR bands, and offers resolution and swath values of 1000 m and 2250 km, respectively. The Doris station-keeping unit is designed to maximise orbital accuracy.

Designed for an in orbit life of 5 years, the successful launch of the 2.4 kW Spot 5 vehicle has ensured that the current Spot satellite constellation has the capacity to image any point on the earth's surface within 24 hours. Equally, the bus design used will form the basis of the European Space Agency/European Meteorological Satellite Organisation's next-generation Metop weather satellite.

Norway Selects SIRFC for NH 90 Helicopters

Norway has selected ITT's AN/ALQ-211(V) suite of integrated radio frequency countermeasures (SIRFC) for installation aboard the 14 NH 90 helicopters it is procuring for use by its Air Force (eight aircraft) and Navy (six aircraft). First flown aboard a US Army AH-64D battlefield attack helicopter during March 1999, SIRFIC is designed to provide high precision direction-finding, threat geolocation and electronic countermeasures response functions in an integrated package that weighs approximately 45 kg. The architecture is further intended to be able to fuse multispectral (radio frequency, laser and infra-red) threat data into a common, real-time display for situational awareness and assessment purposes, and to be able to data link such data to external users both in the air and on the ground. The system is in-flight reprogrammable and makes use of Military Standard (MIL-STD)-1553B and other high speed buses for system integration and communication with the host platform's man-machine interface. The architecture is further billed as incorporating built-in test, industry standard processors, application specific and monolithic microwave integrated circuitry and Standard Electronics Module-E (SEM-E) packaging.

Originally intended for installation aboard US AH-64D, Commanche, MH-47E, MH-60K and some UH-60 helicopters and the CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor vehicle, planned SIRFIC installation within the American military currently (May 2002) appears to be restricted to special operations types such as the MH-47E and MH-60K. Here, it is perhaps worth noting that the architecture is compatible with the ITT High Power Remote Transmitter (HPTR) radio frequency countermeasures unit installed aboard such helicopters. In the planned Norwegian application, the initial procurement will encompass only some elements of the system, with others remaining as options.