Aeronautics and Space Report of the President FY 1995 Activities


Space Communications

Communications Satellites

During FY 1995, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) coordinated and registered several launches of spacecraft for the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (INTELSAT), a consortium of more than 130 countries that own and operate the world's most extensive global communications satellite system. INTELSAT launched its third INTELSAT VII series satellite (INTELSAT 703) on October 6, 1994, aboard an Atlas IIAS launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Deployed in the Pacific Ocean region, this satellite provided additional telephone, broadcasting, and private network capacity. INTELSAT also successfully launched its INTELSAT 704 spacecraft aboard an Atlas IIAS launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on January 10, 1995, and on February 25, 1995, the INTELSAT 704 satellite began commercial operations, providing enhanced satellite services, including digitally transmitted television programming to customers in the Indian Ocean region. The INTELSAT 704 provided much-needed capacity to satisfy increasing customer requirements in Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East. Launched on March 22, 1995, the INTELSAT 705 spacecraft began operation on May 8, 1995, in the Atlantic Ocean region and provided enhanced communications capabilities for INTELSAT customers in Latin America. The INTELSAT 706, the first INTELSAT VII-A spacecraft, was launched successfully on an Ariane launch vehicle on May 17, 1995.

The FCC also authorized several launches of global communications satellites by PanAmSat, the first private company to provide global satellite services. PanAmSat's PAS-4 satellite (designated PAS-6 by the FCC) was launched on August 3, 1995, aboard an Ariane 4 rocket and began broadcast and telecommunications services throughout Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and south Asia in September 1995. The PAS-3 satellite (designated PAS-2 by the FCC) was destroyed during a launch failure on December 1, 1994.

Similarly, the FCC authorized the launch of the Orion I communications satellite, which took place on November 29, 1994. Built for Orion Atlantic Satellite Services, an international business consortium, this spacecraft began providing multiple spot-beam coverage and broad-beam transatlantic and regional coverage in North America and across Eastern and Western Europe in early 1995.

On January 12, 1995, the FCC allocated spectrum in the 2,310- to 2,360-megahertz band for satellite digital audio radio services. This domestic allocation is in accordance with the international allocation made at the 1992 World Administrative Radio Conference. This action is the first step toward providing the American public with new multichannel, multiformat digital radio service with sound quality equivalent to compact disks.

As the principal advisor to the President, Vice President, and the Secretary of Commerce on telecommunications issues, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) undertook a number of policy initiatives involving satellites and other space-based telecommunications systems during FY 1995. For example, NTIA provided policy guidance related to the potential restructuring of the International Mobile Satellite Organization (INMARSAT) and INTELSAT during FY 1995. Specifically, NTIA analyzed INMARSAT's proposal to expand beyond mobile maritime and aeronautical services to include a global, hand-held telephone system called INMARSAT P. NTIA advocated a structural separation between INMARSAT and its proposed new commercial affiliate, enabling INMARSAT to enter new markets while still maintaining a level playing field for other similar global communications ventures.

During FY 1995, NTIA continued to support the satellite telecommunications network known as PEACESAT (Pan-Pacific Educational and Communications Experiments by Satellite), which provides social, environmental, health, and educational exchanges in 21 countries within the Pacific Basin. NTIA secured the use of the GOES-2 satellite from NOAA to ensure the continuation of PEACESAT services after the GOES-3 satellite became unavailable because of limited station-keeping fuel. NTIA also supported the design and testing of digital ground terminals to bring increased voice, data, and compressed video services to the Pacific islands. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and DoI agreed to utilize PEACESAT as the backbone for an emergency management system in the U.S.-affiliated areas of the Pacific.

NTIA also represented U.S. scientific users of the radio frequency spectrum in various domestic and international regulatory forums, such as those sponsored by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Radio Technical Commission on Aeronautics. In particular, NTIA played a key role in U.S. preparations for the World Radiocommunications Conference 1995 for new spectrum allocations that took place from October to November 1995. During FY 1995, NTIA prepared for this ITU-sponsored conference by working with other Federal agencies and the private sector to guide the development of consistent U.S. policies on such key issues as mobile satellite service allocations.

As designated by the President and the Secretary of Commerce, NTIA authorizes and manages all Federal agency use of the electromagnetic spectrum. During FY 1995, it authorized 20 future Federal satellites and space systems for frequency use. NTIA continued to chair an interagency committee that reviews domestic and foreign space systems to determine the possible impact and electromagnetic compatibility with Federal telecommunications networks.

Through its administration of the communications spectrum for the Government (the FCC continued to regulate the spectrum for non-Government users), NTIA prevented the interference of commercial systems, such as communications satellites, from weather, scientific, and national security communications satellites. NTIA assisted the commercial sector in coordination with Federal users of the radio frequency spectrum so that industry could make quick use of new allocations. Specifically, NTIA helped Volunteers in Technical Assistance to clear regulatory hurdles with other Federal agencies after their original satellite contractor withdrew, causing a potential design change that could have interfered with Federal satellites. NTIA personnel also brokered a formal agreement with the FCC and the FAA that allowed mobile satellite service systems to be licensed while still protecting GPS users from interference, especially in aviation and maritime settings.

On the Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS) program, NTIA demonstrated advanced telecommunications switching technology to improve communications capabilities of underserved citizens, especially in rural areas. Engineers at the Institute for Telecommunications Sciences, part of NTIA, developed an Earth station and made it available to other researchers for experimentation.

During FY 1995, DoD approved for implementation an initiative called the Global Broadcast Service (GBS). This system capitalizes on commercial direct broadcast satellite technology to provide high data-rate information, such as imagery, weather, and logistics, to warfighters. GBS is expected to provide two key improvements over existing DoD systems—information to very small user terminals and reduction of the need for multiple transmissions because GBS sends data to many users simultaneously.

The DoD refurbishment of its UHF satellite constellation proceeded on schedule with the launch of two Navy UHF Follow-On (UFO) satellites during FY 1995. The overall design architecture calls for two UFO's per coverage area, for a total of eight with an additional on-orbit spare. UFO-4 was launched successfully on January 28, 1995, and assumed operational status in a geosynchronous orbit over the Pacific Ocean. On May 31, 1995, UFO-5 was launched successfully into a geosynchronous orbit over the Indian Ocean and became operational on August 1, 1995.

Because current DoD systems lack sufficient capacity to support the enormous communications requirements for joint command operations, the Navy has pursued the use of commercial satellite communications systems to resolve this deficiency. The Chief of Naval Operations' Challenge Athena project demonstrated successfully that commercial satellite capability can be a viable, cost-effective augmentation of existing, overburdened military satellite systems. Challenge Athena proved itself as an innovative space system solution, using commercial narrow-band and wide-band satellite communications to provide for the timely delivery of high-volume national primary imagery data to afloat warfighters. During a 6-month deployment of the U.S.S. George Washington battle group, Challenge Athena delivered more than 6,600 near-real-time images to battle group warfighters. It further provided two-way connectivity for a variety of spinoff applications, including telephones, telemedicine, and teleconferencing.

The Navy's Situational Awareness Beacon with Reply (SABER) system successfully completed a concept demonstration exercise and technical evaluation in March 1995 and an all-service evaluation and test exercise in September 1995. SABER is a satellite communications-based beacon assembly that passes unit identification and GPS positions to command-and-control nodes and warfighting platforms. DoD hopes that SABER will significantly upgrade its combat identification ability.

During FY 1995, the Defense Satellite Communication System (DSCS) continued to serve as the long-haul, high-capacity communications system for worldwide command and control of the U.S. armed forces. The DSCS program successfully launched a DSCS III satellite in July 1995, which serves as a replacement for an older DSCS III. Five other DSCS III satellites in storage at the end of FY 1995 were scheduled for future launches. At the end of FY 1995, there were five DSCS operations centers and five auxiliary satellite control terminals worldwide, operated and maintained by the U.S. Army Space Command. The Heavy Terminal/Medium Terminal (HT/MT) modernization program began upgrading the first DSCS HT/MT's in FY 1995 to extend the mission life of these ground-based assets and additional 15 years. DSCS space and ground resources supported a wide variety of high-priority missions, such as military activities in Haiti, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Somalia/Kenya, Saudi Arabia/Kuwait, Iraq/Turkey, and various Presidential trips.


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Curator: Lillian Gipson
Last Updated: September 5, 1996
For more information contact Steve Garber, NASA History Office,
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