Tim Furniss/LONDON

Hughes Space and Communications is to build at least three new satellites for New ICO, formerly ICO Global Communications, and will modify 11 other spacecraft under construction for the company. Meanwhile, the satellite builder has submitted a proposal to the US defence department for a high capacity communications spacecraft.

The New ICO modifications will help enhance the service, providing high-quality voice and packet-data services starting in 2003. New ICO's holding company is ICO-Teledesic, which was established to control the satellite assets of telecommunications entrepreneur Craig McCaw. ICO-Teledesic acquired financially troubled ICO Global Communications for $1.2 billion.


The Hughes 601-based New ICO spacecraft carries more computing power than Pentium III-based computers, features innovative transmit and receive antennas allowing direct air link to users and has smart processors capable of adapting beam configuration to match usage.

Meanwhile, Hughes has proposed a solution consisting of several high power, high capacity satellites to the Department of Defense for the Wideband Gapfiller Satellite programme. The proposals draw heavily on the company's flight-proven commercial technology, such as the Thuraya and Spaceway projects. Lockheed Martin and Spectrum Astro are also expected to bid

Hughes will launch the first of two geostationary orbiting satellites for the United Arab Emirates' Thuraya mobile communications satellite system in October.

The turnkey system will serve 1.8 billion people and has a capacity to support 13,750 simultaneous phone calls. The company is also a major participant in Spaceway, a high speed, high bandwidth communications programme set for launch in 2002.

• Insurers have written-off the failed Hughes-built Solidaridad 1 satellite as a $250 million loss. The second of its control processors stopped working on 27 August.

This was the latest in a series of control processor problems with HS-601 spacecraft, apparently caused by the build up of crystals on the tin relays used to control the flow of electricity. Tin relays were installed on HS-601s built before mid-1997 and there are 25 of these in orbit. In 1998, Hughes switched to nickel instead of tin.

Source: Flight International