Workshop on Global Assessment of Satellite Communications Technology and Systems
The executive summary for the WTEC Panel Report on Global Satellite Communications Technology and Systems is now available. The full report will be abvailable in print and on the web in early November.
The WTEC Workshop on Global Assessment of Satellite Communications Technology and Systems occured on December 3, 1997. Viewgraphs from the presentations, given by the WTEC panel members, are available.
To reserve a copy of the final report at pre-publication prices or for more information on this study, please send email to Trina Foley: email@example.com
During the second half of 1996 a blue ribbon panel of aerospace and communications executives known as the Satellite Industry Task Force (SITF) presented their study findings on the future of U.S. satellite communications to Vice President Albert Gore. This presentation was made to top U.S. government leaders from NASA, the Department of Defense and the Office of Science and Technology in the White House. This panel, chaired by Dr. Thomas Brackey of Hughes, acknowledged that a strong research role in the field of satellite communications was appropriate for the U.S. government in a time when satellites were entering a key new stage of growth and expansion into new applications. This new stage involves an explosion of new technology and applications with the rapid deployment of new mobile, direct broadcast and high data rate/multimedia satellite services. Some analyst believe this field will grow from its current level of $18 billion a year to over $50 billion in the next five years.
This report of the SITF noted that international competitiveness was certainly an issue and that U.S. leadership could be challenged during the crucial period of new growth and expansion. Among the recommendations made in the SITF report was that an international assessment should be made of exactly where U.S. technologies and new applications stand in comparison to other countries around the world who are aggressively entering the new satellite markets.
Accordingly, on February 26, 1997, NASA and NSF officials convened a respected panel of experts in Washington, DC to begin a detailed assessment of the status of satellite communications systems and technologies around the world . This is to be a detailed review of current capabilities in the U.S., compared to the other major industrial countries (e.g., Japan and Western Europe). These findings will be contrasted and compared with a similar study commissioned by NASA and the NSF five years ago in order to baseline the current study findings. The study panel is headed by Thomas Brackey, Executive Director of Technical Operations at Hughes Space & Communications, Burton Edelson, former Associate Administrator of NASA and former director of Comsat Laboratories, and Joseph N. Pelton, Dean of the International Space University and Professor of Telecommunications, University of Colorado at Boulder, who will chair the panel. Al Mac Rae, formerly of AT&T Bell Labs, will serve as panel co-chair.
Also participating in the study will be Charles Bostian of Virginia Tech, William Brandon of Mitre, Vincent Chan of Lincoln Labs, John Evans of Comsat, Chris Mahle, formerly of Comsat Labs, Neil Helm of George Washington University, Stephen Townes of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Kul Bhasin of NASA Lewis Research Center, and Walda Roseman of CompassRose International. In addition a broad-based editorial review board widely representative of the aerospace and communications industries will participate in the final review and drafting of the report, which is due by early 1998. The panel will present preliminary findings at a workshop to be held in the Washington, DC area on December 3, 1997 at the Rosslyn Westpark Hotel in Arlington, VA (1-703-527-4814).
The World Technology Evaluation Center (WTEC) at Loyola College in Maryland has been funded by a cooperative agreement from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to perform a series of international technology assessments. Additional support from the Department of Energy, DARPA, the Department of Commerce, the Army Research Office, ONR, USAF, and NASA has been received for studies in which these agencies have an interest. Panels of experts under the WTEC methodology have assessed or are assessing international R&D in a number of technology areas including: superconductivity, spacecraft propulsion, advanced computing, nuclear power generation, construction technologies, X-ray lithography, machine translation, bioprocessing, database systems, display technologies, knowledge-based systems, materials handling, separation technologies, satellite communications, microelectromechanical systems, electronic packaging, undersea technologies, manufacturing of polymer composites, optoelectronics, casting, and rapid prototyping.
The following is an outline of the original task statement for the WTEC satellite communications assessment initiated by NASA and NSF in early 1997. A revised and more detailed study plan is now being completed by the above panel, and will be posted to this web site shortly.
WTEC completed an international assessment of satellite communications systems and technology for NASA and NSF in July 1993. This study found that the United States had lost its leading position in many critical satellite communications technologies. Although U.S. companies dominated the world market for satellite communications services at the time of the study, ambitious new R&D efforts underway in both Europe and Japan were judged likely to contribute to continuing erosion of U.S. competitiveness in technology for next generation systems, thus putting the future market share of the U.S. satellite communications industry at risk. The authors pointed to comparatively strong government policies and programs in Europe and Japan as contributing factors to this decline in U.S. competitiveness. The study identified several emerging technology and applications areas (e.g., high data rate services, small satellites and small/mobile/low-cost groundstations) which present opportunities for the United States to improve its future position in this industry.
The 1993 report received considerable attention in both the specialized and the general media, and sparked a debate within the U.S. aerospace, communications, and science policy communities on how the United States should respond to these findings. An informal collaborative R&D program was established to coordinate efforts at the University of New Mexico, Air Force Phillips Laboratory, and two national laboratories. The Mitre Corporation convened a meeting of U.S. satellite manufacturers to discuss the possibility of establishing a private satellite technology consortium (December 1994). While no action was taken at this time, such a consortium has been formed under the Telecommunications Industries Association (TIA) in January 1996. The informal consortium which preceded the TIA organization had delivered a briefing to the White House in September, 1995. Many believe the 1993 study coalesced these industry actions.
Representatives of some U.S. companies criticized the report for not including a detailed review of U.S. activities as part of its methodology. While such a review was not possible in the available time or funding of the 1993 study, it would have been of value in sharpening the recommendations.
There is now a need to update the 1993 report for the following reasons:
In addition, a follow-on study could begin with a thorough review of the U.S. satellite communications industry, including visits to leading U.S. companies. This would provide a more complete benchmark against which to measure the rest of the world than was possible with the 1993 study.
This study will review the current status of research, development, and applications in satellite communications in the United States, Japan, Western Europe, and Russia with a view towards evaluating the competitive status of U.S. efforts and identifying new strategies the U.S. government and industry could employ to improve the future position of the U.S. industry. It will also assess current international collaborative activities and identify opportunities for new approaches and topics for further international cooperation in this field.
The following topics and issues are under consideration by the sponsors and panelists in determining the final scope of the study:
Technologies to be Covered
Application Areas to be Covered
Other Technical Issues:
Other Non-Technical Issues
Countries to be Visited:
A detailed list of sites to be visited will be developed at the beginning of the study. The starting point will be the list of sites visited by the previous study (see site reports, Volume II of the 1993 report). A preliminary list of likely countries to visit includes the U.S., Japan, Germany, France, Italy, U.K., and Russia.