There are many challenges in satellite communications ahead:, one of them will be to keep the interest in supporting R&D in various necessary disciplines after the current wave of enthusiasm and spectrum allocation for new systems and higher frequencies subsides. The list of needed technology developments is long, but progress on all fronts is necessary if the longer term future of satellite communications is to be assured. The following list of technologies needing long-term attention could define a well rounded R&D program.

It may be difficult to realize the benefits from the large number ("automobile manufacturing") approach, under financial pressures to go into revenue service as soon as possible. The numbers for satellites are too small to reap statistical benefits from long manufacturing runs. The individual satellites are too expensive to "throw away" if they are defective or to "test to death" the first 10% of a satellite production run. Motorola's example of a "6 sigma design & manufacturing" approach must be confronted with the 6% initial failure in orbit that has actually been experienced.

Published: December 1998; WTEC Hyper-Librarian