Updated July 2002
Astrolink LLC is an international wireless broadband telecommunications company created in 1999 to help satisfy the surging worldwide demand for digital bandwidth. The space-based Astrolink network will be able to provide high-speed, end-to-end data connections to businesses and individuals around the globe, making it faster and easier for them to use such on-line applications as e-commerce, videoconferencing, distance learning and Web browsing.
Just how quickly is the demand for bandwidth growing? Recent studies (Pioneer Consulting, 1999; Booz-Allen & Hamilton, 1998) predict that the broadband-satellite market will be worth between US$20 billion and US$30 billion 2005.
In mid-1999, Astrolink evolved from a project into an independent company. Astrolink's three original equity partners--Lockheed Martin Global Telecommunications, Telespazio and TRW--committed a total of US$900 million as a first step in the construction and operation of the international Astrolink telecommunications network. By the end of the year, Liberty Media Group, with an investment of US$425 million, became the fourth and largest Astrolink equity partner. That brought Astrolink to US$1.33 billion in committed equity funds--substantially all of the company's equity objective.
In 2003, Astrolink plans to begin providing broadband multimedia services to customers in the Americas, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The following year Astrolink will extend its service offerings to Asia/Pacific, thereby creating a global end-to-end service offering for its customers
June 6th, 2000: TRW has completed development of the RH32S, a computer-on-a-chip for Astrolink satellite communications payloads.
The RH32S, especially "hardened" to withstand the harsh radiation of space, is central to controlling the advanced digital processors onboard the satellites of Astrolink's global broadband telecommunications system.
TRW is building the communications payloads for Astrolink, which is scheduled to begin providing interactive broadband access internationally in 2003. The first five RH32S chips, completed on schedule, are now installed in development stations where they are being used to develop Astrolink applications software, according to TRW officials. Full-scale production has begun on the chips that will go into the Astrolink payloads.
"The TRW RH32S is the highest performance radiation-hardened computer in the world today," said Paul Borzcik, TRW's Astrolink program manager. "This chip's radiation hardness and its circuit design combine to provide an extremely fault-tolerant computer that ensures the levels of reliability commercial telecommunications customers have come to expect."
The TRW RH32S cuts down greatly on size, weight and power consumption of the Astrolink payload, factors especially important onboard satellites, where size and power are limited. The RH32S replaces a unit formerly requiring five chips packaged in a multichip module housing, reducing weight by 90 percent and power by 80 percent.
The weight and power savings per payload are substantial, because each Astrolink payload employs 16 RH32Ss. The silicon chips are complex digital processors, containing more than 5 million transistors each, and fabricated in the complementary metal oxide semiconductor, or CMOS, process.
The 16 RH32Ss in each payload operate as building blocks of a distributed controller architecture that provides modularity and flexibility. Functions performed by the RH32Ss include allocation and control of payload resources such as the modems and ATM switch queues, security and fault management, and handling of the messages sent by Astrolink's Network Control Centers.
"The distributed architecture lets us place the MIPS (millions of instructions per second) where they're needed, as they're needed," Borzcik said. "This dynamic approach is part of TRW's unique payload design that enables Astrolink to provide its customers with bandwidth on demand."
While the Astrolink RH32S runs proprietary application software, this software is being developed using commercial off-the-shelf software tools and runs on a commercial off-the-shelf operating system.
SUNNYVALE, CA, July 20, 1999 -- Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems has been selected to build four geostationary, Ka-band telecommunications satellites for Astrolink LLC. Astrolink is a strategic venture with founding partners Lockheed Martin Global Telecommunications, Telespazio, a subsidiary of Telecom Italia, and TRW Inc.
The Astrolink satellite system is the most technologically sophisticated capability for the growing global telecommunications market. The Astrolink constellation will use the Lockheed Martin A2100 satellite bus which offers design versatility at minimum cost. It has a life span of about 15 years and is compatible with a wide array of launch vehicles. Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems, Sunnyvale, CA, will build the Astrolink satellites using high-capacity packet-switched payloads manufactured by TRW Space & Electronics Group, Redondo Beach, CA. Depending on consumer demand, the constellation may increase to as many as nine satellites.
"We are excited to be a part of this revolutionary program and look forward to begin building the Astrolink satellite constellation. Astrolink is a pioneer of future broadband telecommunication services, just as Lockheed Martin pioneered the use of Ka-band frequencies which will be used by Astrolink," said Pete Kujawski, President of Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems.
"We are pleased to have awarded the contract to Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems. The A2100 satellite bus is one of the most competitive in the industry and it will help us lead the race to deploy the first of a new generation of flexible, reliable, high speed, global wireless data services," said Celso Azevedo, President and Chief Executive Officer of Astrolink.
"By exploiting the Ka-band, we will be able to provide much larger amounts of data for services such as corporate Intranets and video-on-demand with smaller antennas than current systems. Astrolink will offer the most state-of-the-art and cost-effective telecommunication services in the world," Azevedo said.
The Astrolink system will afford commercial subscribers global connectivity for a variety of applications. Providing much more than simply telephone, fax and data services, Astrolink offers access to applications that require high transmission rates, such as high-speed internet services, electronic transactions, video-on-demand, video teleconferencing, telemedicine, telecommuting and private networking capabilities.
A key benefit of Astrolink is dynamic bandwidth allocation, which allows customers to purchase as much or as little satellite throughput capacity as they require at a given time, instead of paying for a dedicated communications circuit. Currently, communications satellite users must pay for dedicated transponded circuits, whether they are used or not. With Astrolink, users will be able to transmit much more data much more affordably, and will not have to pay for idle time.
The spacecraft will be built at the Lockheed Martin Commercial Satellite Center in Sunnyvale, CA.
ASTROLINK RAISES $900 MILLION FOR BROADBAND SATELLITE NETWORK
Astrolink raised an initial $900 million in equity financing to launch up to nine, geostationary Ka-band (20-30 Ghz) satellites to provide broadband data communications services to customers in Europe and North and South America. Lockheed Martin Global Telecommunications Group is investing $400 million cash in the venture, Telespazio (a unit of Telecom Italia) is investing $250 million cash and TRW is investing $250 million cash. The first Astrolink satellite is scheduled for launch in 2002, followed by the launch of three additional satellites at six-month intervals.
The Astrolink satellites are being designed with 6.5 Gbps capacity and the ability to support downlink speeds of up to 110 Mbps and uplink speeds of 20 Mbps per channel. The architecture will be based on ATM for supporting IP as well as synchronous voice and isochronous video services. Astrolink plans to offer a premium ATM
service for business customers, featuring CBR, rt-VBR, nrt-VBR, UBR and ABR services. Astrolink will build four regional control centers to validate users, monitor the system and provide set-up and tear-down functions. It will also build two satellite centers, three telemetry station and 30 to 50 Gateway Earth Stations providing interexchange, protocol conversion and uplink to the satellites at 143 Mbps per channel. The capital costs of the entire satellite network and terrestrial support system are estimated at $3.6 billion. Astrolink will seek strategic service provider partners, raise additional financing and possibly seek an IPO prior to launch. The company is based in Bethesda, Maryland. http://www.astrolink.com/
Astrolink, May 6, 1999