Tim Furniss/LONDON

TRW has taken a 7% stake in the international ICO mobile hand-held-telephone communications-satellite project, after deciding that it will not proceed with its own proposed Odyssey satellite system.

The Redondo Beach, California-based company had found it difficult to find investors for its system and tried to stall the similar project being developed by international Inmarsat affiliate ICO. Because ICO had planned a medium-orbit system, similar to that of the Odyssey, TRW claimed patent rights on the use of the type of orbit.

Now, the company has taken a stake in the $3 billion ICO project, reducing to three the number of systems racing to provide anywhere-to-anywhere worldwide mobile-telephone services within the next three years.

Competing with ICO are Motorola, with its $3.4 billion Iridium, which aims to be operational in September, and the Loral-led Globalstar project.

Motorola has 46 Lockheed Martin satellites in orbit of a planned system of 66 operational spacecraft operating in 670km low-Earth orbits. Six in-orbit spares are planned to be in orbit at all times. Three of the 46 spacecraft so far placed in orbit are not working, which means that 23 need to be launched by September.

Launches of the planned 48 Loral-built satellites into 1,200km orbits as part of the $2.5 billion Globalstar project begin this year and the company hopes to be operational in early 1999. ICO, which also starts launches later this year of ten Hughes spacecraft into 10,355km orbits, will not offer services until 2000.

Source: Flight International