Site: Matra-Marconi Space UK Ltd.
Anchorage Road
Portsmouth, Hampshire
PO3 5PU England

Date Visited: June 24, 1992

Report Author: L. Riley (author) and V. Chan (contributor)



W. Brandon
B. Edelson
J. Pelton
L. Riley


Dennis Cummings

Marketing Manager

D. J. Flint

Head Equipment Engineering

N. A. Watt

Manager, Satellite Communication Division

J. R. E. Kenyon
A. Clarke

Leader, Quality Techniques and Materials

N. P. Fillery

Leader, Analog and Digital Design

B. LeStradic

Leader, Antennas and Advanced Microwaves

D. O'Connor

Leader, Microwave Equipment Design

L. Baufield

Leader, Design Services


Matra-Marconi Space (MMS) came into being three years ago. Matra Defense Espace has a 51% ownership share and GEC Marconi has a 49% share. (Matra is a $5 billion per year company with 22,000 employees; GEC, $15 billion and 108,000.) The former GEC Marconi had experience in payloads that was complemented by Matra's satellite bus capabilities. The organization has one board of directors and it is the largest European manufacturer of satellites. There are five directorates. The two that are relevant to this study are the Communications Satellite and Ground Systems Directorates. The 1991 gross sales of Matra-Marconi was approximately $800 million, 1991 bookings about $1.2 billion, with a total current order book of more than $2.2 billion. Its space sales compare favorably to those of Hughes ($500 million) and exceed those of GE Astro ($200 million) by MMS estimates. The company employs approximately 2,000 people in France and 1,000 in the U.K.

C. Goumy is the chairman of MMS, and the head of telecommunications for space is J. B. Levy. Matra-Hachette also owns Fairchild Space in the United States, and future consolidations are expected. Telecommunications is one third of MMS's business, and 25% of the business is defense. 25% is from CNES-France and 25% is from ESA; 20% is exported. Research and development is centered mainly at MMS-U.K. In 1991, MMS invested $900 million in R&D. Major development projects include Ariane 5, ready in 1996, and SILEX, the first optical communication payload for MATRA Toulouse. MMS is involved in a total of 12 telecommunications satellite programs -- as prime contractor for TELECOM II, HISPASAT and SILEX; as prime payload contractor for EUTELSAT 2, Inmarsat II, SKYNET-4, NATO-4 and KOREASAT; and as a major partner in ITALSAT F1 and F2, ARTEMIS, Inmarsat II and ORION.

The main events in MMS's two years of existence have included:

  1. The launching of nine satellites, including ERS-1 and TELECOM II,
  2. Eight ARIANE launches,
  3. The initiation of actions to improve competitiveness,
  4. The receipt of orders for the SOHO satellites and the SILEX optical payload, and
  5. Winning the Koreasat contract.

The 30 programs on which it is currently working, either as prime contractor or as part of top-level international cooperation, cover a whole range of space activities: earth observation, telecommunications, launchers and manned-flights and scientific experiments.

MMS feels that the present market is in a state of flux, caused by a number of factors including: the open market, global competition, the peace dividend, EC space ambitions, ESA problems, East European opportunities and the Gulf War. ESA problems are related to funding, particularity the recent lack of German support. MMS representatives noted that 10% of the ESA budget is dedicated to telecommunications and, of this, half is being applied to the development of ISLs.

The predominant business at Portsmouth is the manufacture of space communications payloads. Recent and ongoing programs include the Inmarsat II space platform (at Stevenage, U.K.) which included a Hughes communications payload, EUTELSAT 2 (subcontracted from Aerospatiale), the Inmarsat III payload (platform being built by GE Astro Division) and TELECOM II. They are also working on several science missions, including a C-band synthetic aperture radar with a 30 m x 1 m antenna. In addition, MMS manufactures various earth terminals including man-pack, transportable and fixed earth terminals.

Ongoing programs are given in Table MMS.1.

Table MMS.1
Ongoing Programs


MMS UK Technology Contributions

EUTELSAT 2. A major challenge in the development of EUTELSAT 2 is packaging hardware into a small bus. This required the use of heat pipes to transfer the heat to the north and south panel radiators. The payload includes twenty-four 50 W Ku-band TWTAs with 1.5 GHz bandwidth. The TWTs were supplied by Hughes and Thomson CSF.

HISPASAT. The challenge for MMS UK in this program was to develop four repeaters on a very short time schedule. This included a DBS repeater with three channels at K/Ku-band with 110 W of power. In addition there was an eight channel system at 55 W. There is little new technology on this spacecraft.

Inmarsat III. The Inmarsat III incorporates advanced technology to produce a global beam and five reconfigurable spot beams and is capable of continuously varying the power distribution between beams to accommodate variations in traffic. Payload sub-contractors are RymSA, ANT, ComDev and Alcatel Kirk. The spacecraft incorporates a number of challenging components including (for four payloads): one-hundred and forty 20 W L-band SSPA's (33 per spacecraft), eighty-eight L-band LNAs, four forward transponder BFNs, four return transponder power combiners, and sixteen 4 x 4 and four 6 x 6 output networks for SSPA power combining. Another technically challenging subsystem is the frequency generation system which has high stability requirements. (However, no performance values were provided.) The SSPAs utilize silicon bi-polar transistors manufactured by Phillips in France. The same transistors were used in MARECS and were to be flown on ARTEMIS. The output is derived from two 10 W transistors in parallel. These amplifiers have a linear characteristic (non-saturated) which incorporates a new biasing scheme resulting in an efficiency of 33%, regulated DC to RF, and broader bandwidth.

The IF processor is being developed and produced by ComDev. Ltd., Toronto, Canada. The processor routes signals from uplink to downlink beams and controls amplitudes of signals to vary output levels. If all signals are switched into one beam all available power will be in that beam. Thus, the power in a spot beam can vary from 0 to 4x, where x is the power per beam in a conventional design.

The schedule for delivery of Inmarsat III hardware is as follows:


30 Oct 1992


31 Aug 1993


31 Dec 1993


30 Apr 1994


30 Aug 1994

An engineering model of the communications payload will be constructed. The antenna system consists of a 2.4 m reflector fed by a helix array. This array produces five spot beams and a global beam. It is a "focal plane array" which can be mechanically rotated by ground command to reconfigure the spot beams. As noted above, the system is capable of varying the percentage of power in each spot beam or the global beam to meet varying traffic demand.

A six month technology verification was required by Inmarsat during the initial phases of the design. (Apparently Alcatel also carried out a technology verification of its competing design, not selected by Inmarsat. Alcatel felt that the rotating array approach could lead to passive intermodulation (PIM) product difficulties.) In this phase of the design the highest risk components were tested. These included the low phase noise frequency generator, the SSPAs, and the 4 x 4 and 6 x 6 output networks. It was felt by Matra Marconi that the key advances in the Inmarsat III program are the development of a totally new system approach which can be used on future missions and the ability to achieve high RF power levels with low mass. Low mass is achieved principally by utilizing SSPAs, surface mount and RF hybrid technology. Microwave hybrid circuits were used in the frequency generator. MMICs are being used in the IF processor, which has variable bandwidth. Inmarsat III utilizes multiple carrier FDMA.

ARCHIMEDES. The ARCHIMEDES program has been under study mainly by British companies, including MMS UK. The program had been scheduled for a 1998 launch but the future of the program is in some doubt. Initial study efforts focused on mobile communications applications but more recent studies have turned toward a primarily DAB mission with mobile communications secondary. It was implied that the market potential of the system may be questionable. Another issue is the fact that the Minisat bus which would support the system has been deleted from the ESA budget.

New Technology

The Design Division has about 200 engineers, and is organized into five groups: Quality Techniques, Materials; Analog and Digital Design; Antennas and Advanced Microwaves; Microwave Equipment Design; and Design Services.

The Microwave Equipment Design Group is developing active and passive microwave devices and frequency generators for space applications. The active microwave devices discussed were LNAs and channel amplifiers. The only device shown to the panel was a 14 GHz LNA with an NF of 1-1.5 dB, of hybrid construction. Passive devices under development include filters, combiners/splitters, and phase shifters. Phase shifter devices include PIN diode and MMIC switched-line phase shifters. Frequency generator components include phase-locked loops and frequency multiplier chains. An example of their work is the frequency generator for Inmarsat III which was described as a "world beater" in terms of functionality per unit mass. It provides 30 frequencies in a 5 kg unit, said to be "four times the competition" in Europe. MMS representatives stated that these were being constructed using hybrid technology. In response to a question regarding applications of high temperature superconducting material, it was stated that this type of research is conducted at the GEC Marconi Laboratory, Chelmsford, Essex.

The Antenna and Advanced Microwave Group is developing satellite antennas, MMIC devices, mm-wave devices and optical components. Antenna development entails design of reflector and phased array antennas and antenna tests. The antenna test facility is rather extensive and includes a 15 x 15 x 30 m near-field range which was visited. MMIC development activity consists of design, modeling, foundry supervision and integration into subsystems. The G-MMT Caswell, Northants, foundry, which is capable of processing 3-inch gallium arsenide (GaAs) wafers, is being used for MMIC fabrication. The Inmarsat III will not employ custom designed MMICs but will use non-custom devices in the IF processor and frequency generator subsystems. The mm-wave development activity consists of designs to frequencies as high as 286 GHz. Radiometer development at these frequencies is underway in support of the UK portion of the Microwave Humidity Sounder (MHS) for EUMETSAT. Optical component development is focused on optical signal distribution networks and development of the SILEX point-ahead assembly.


MMS UK at Portsmouth feels it has a lead in technology in high efficiency and high linearity L-band SSPAs and in low-phase-noise frequency generator subsystems. They further feel that the L-band mobile payload for the Inmarsat III spacecraft is as advanced as the L-band Land Mobile (LLM) experimental payload for the ESA ARTEMIS payload. (This was later confirmed by Alenia Spazio, the developer of the LLM.) It was felt by MMS that the key advances in the Inmarsat III program include the development of a totally new system approach which can be used on future missions and the ability to achieve high RF power levels with low mass. This system includes a number of challenging components including 20 W L-band SSPAs (33 per spacecraft), BFNs and a low-phase-noise frequency generation system. The SSPAs utilize silicon bi-polar transistors manufactured by Phillips in France. The reconfigurable multibeam antenna with high beam isolation also represents rather advanced technology.

Published: July 1993; WTEC Hyper-Librarian