Site: Matra Marconi Space
Gunnels Wood Road, Stevenage
Hertfordshire, SG1 2AS, England

Date Visited: September 9, 1997

WTEC: W. Brandon (report author), R. DePaula, C. Mahle, K. Bhasin



Matra Marconi acquired Ferranti and British Aerospace in 1994. The leading satellite manufacturer in Europe, Matra Marconi Space has achieved a turnover exceeding 1.3 billion ECU ($1.6 billion). Of the 5,000 professional staff, about half are located in the U.K. at Bristol (science and earth observation), Portsmouth (telecommunications and radar payloads, ground systems, antennas), Stevenage (communications satellites, antennas, ground communications, and Spelda payload fairings), and at Poynton, Cheshire (ground rf equipment, satellite terminals, and sub-assemblies). Seven business units comprise the organization: Manned Flight and Launch; Military Space (France); Science and Optical Observation; Civil Telecommunications; Science and Radar Observation; Military Space (U.K.); and Ground Systems. The company's activities in U.K. and France are integrated. With particular emphasis on ground terminals, Mr. Carter is based at Velizy, France, and has staff at the other major sites. The prominent identification of military business units indicates an assumption that this area will continue to be a significant market. Currently, military activity for France (15 percent) and U.K. (9.6 percent) nearly equal the size of the civil communications satellite (26 percent) and civil scientific and earth observation activities (30.4 percent). The largest customers are the European Space Agency (ESA), the Ministry of Defense of France and the Ministry of Defense for U.K. Briefings were provided on the civil communication satellites, payloads, the EAST system, advanced buses, the WEST system, satellite manufacturing and integration, antennas, and ground terminals.


Civil Communication Satellites

A Systems Engineering and Architecture group comprising 60 staff, about equally split between Toulouse and Stevenage, conduct advanced planning studies, prepare proposals, and provide matrix support to development and production programs.

A chart showing the history of satellites produced by Matra Marconi indicated steady progress in size and complexity, with the HOTBIRD 3 being the most recent launch (as of the time of this WTEC visit). HOTBIRD's (33 Mhz bandwidth) transponders can each support up to 10 TV broadcast channels and will fuel the further expansion of direct broadcast in Europe. The design for ORION provides 34 Ku-band, all solid state transponders (15 watt GaAs SSPAs), producing 4 times frequency re-use.

These satellites use the 2000+ bus (about 5 or 6 kW payloads and 3.2 ton launch weight), and provide a suitable experience base for advanced systems such as EAST.

MMS provided payloads for Inmarsat 3, the world's first mobile satellite with global and spot beams, with spectrum and power apportionment reconfigurable between beams.

The EAST System

The Euro-African Satellite Telecommunications (EAST) was conceived by MMS to provide fixed and mobile service to Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. A market analysis by KPMG estimated 10.6 million users for FSS and 2.6 million for MSS in this region.

The EAST mobile sub-system will support handheld, vehicular and notebook terminals based on cellular, DSP, SIM card, and other technologies, with target costs on the order of $1,000. The terminal architecture is modular, and derived from mobile handheld terminals, intended to result in broader commonality of components. For Ku-band, up and down converters will produce interfaces to the L-band handheld technology.

EAST is to be an integrated system with PSTN and GSM compatibility to provide least cost routing and roaming. True mobile to mobile connectivity is possible.

The L band payload will include an antenna of about 13.5 m diameter, an array feed of about 2.5 m diameter and ~100 elements. A full digital onboard processor (demux/route/beamform/remux) is being developed using 2.5 to 3.0 volt ASICs. The processor is estimated to weigh >100 kg and consume 1.5 kW of power. Matra Marconi has pioneered in producing sophisticated L-Band payloads for mobile communications in MARECS and Inmarsat 3.

The WEST System

The Wideband European Satellite Telecommunications System (WEST) is a GEO Ka-band system for interactive multimedia services. As for the EAST system, the architecture begins with the terminals. A population of 100,000 private users for Internet and interactive services are predicted by 2005; the terminal for this application is a 0.7 m dish, with 2 dB NF and a 2 watt SSPA. Uplink rates of 32 kbps to 384 kbps with a 2 mbps downlink are envisioned. Professional users would operate with symmetrical, two way data rates of up to 10 Mbps. A smaller VSAT business terminal (1.5 to 1.8 m) is being crafted for a price below $1,000 and would operate at 1.5 Mbps. Satellite throughput would be on the order of 6Gbps (64 beams with up to 155 Mbps burst rates).

Satellite Antennas

Matra Marconi has accomplished leading edge designs for a number of satellite antennas. Proprietary design software is responsible for some of the advances in dual reflector Gregorian designs. The ASAR synthetic aperture 5.3 GHz radar antenna is an example of a state of art design; the array is 10 m long by just over a meter in height; there are 20 panels of 16 modules each. Each module has 32 dB antenna gain, 2.8 dB NF, and an 8 W pulse transmitter. The ERS-1 and ERS-2 satellites have two passive arrays.

An interesting concept mentioned was the attempt to achieve some synergy between defense and civil applications in antennas.

Other Payload Components

Technology areas in which Matra Marconi produces leading edge components include payload processors, SSPAs (e.g., 1 W Ka-band, 22 W L-band), LNAs (e.g., 0.9 dB L-band and 3.5 dB at Q-band); channel amplifiers having the lowest mass with respect to competition; output multiplexers (example of a 13 filter in one manifold design) accomplished in two weeks using proprietary software control of the fabrication and alignment.


The use of a standard bus was initiated in 1986. Currently, a family of large GEO buses is available with the 3000 model expected to be qualified in 1997. The sizes are given below:






Wt. (tons)





Power (kW)





Payload (Kg)





Matra Marconi has accumulated 150 years of on-orbit life with 99.98 % service availability history. Some advanced technologies include electric propulsion (Russian design being manufactured by SEP in France), deployable heat radiators, and advanced battery technology.

A small bus called LEOSTAR is in development for use on scientific and earth observation missions (e.g., optical or radar) but might also be applied to communications. It is designed for rapid buildup and low recurring cost. The attitude control can be varied to match the requirements of the payload. Payload weights of 200 to 500 kg may be accommodated.

Manufacturing philosophy is evolving into a product teams approach. With its capability in the U.K. and France, Matra Marconi has considerable flexibility in addressing manufacturing as well as development, using extensive clean room, antenna range and other facilities.


MMS. Briefing charts on the Civil Telecom Directorate, covering division's organization, present development directions, and prior satellite developments. 18 pp.

____. Company Profile. Brochure listing essential statistics on sales, size, ownership, activities. 2 pp.

____.Communications-A Measure of Man's Progress. Brochure describing satellite communications experience, capability, facilities and products. 14 pp.

____. Selected charts on Inmarsat 3, ORION-1, ASTRA 2B, and future vision.

____. Space Solutions. Brochure outlining activities in earth observation, communications, space science, launch and manned flight. 18 pp.

Published: December 1998; WTEC Hyper-Librarian