The first commercial satellite launching by the just-announced merged aerospace giant, Lockheed Martin, will be a small satellite blasted into space aboard a new Thiokol booster.
C.E. (Tom) Velez, chairman and chief executive officer of CTA Inc., made that announcement Tuesday during an annual conference on small satellites at Utah State University.The keynote speaker at the conference, he has seen his company grow from a two-person firm to an employer of 1,600. Based in Rockville, Md., CTA has approximately $170 million in sales and $600 million in service contracts.
CTA is building the Gemstar satellite, which will be carried into space aboard the Lockheed missile. "It will be the first Lockheed Martin commercial space ven-ture," he told the group. Until now, no one has known that Lockheed was about to merge with another aerospace colossus, Martin Marietta.
Much of his talk involved the Gemstar, a small communications satellite that is scheduled to lift off in November aboard the new Lockheed LLV-1 missile.
The missile uses the Thiokol Castor 120 booster. According to USU space expert Gil Moore, the Castor 120 weighs about 120,000 pounds and is 92 inches in diameter. It is a stage of the Lockheed LLV-1 missile. The Castor 120 has undergone static tests, but this will be the first firing into space.
Thiokol is based in Brigham City, about 26 miles southwest of Logan, where USU is located.
Gemstar is designed to carry electronic mail, or e-mail, traffic. Velez explained that the satellite will acquire messages from remote computer terminals, store them, then transit them to a "gateway" receiver where they will go into the Internet system of commucations.
Asked by the Deseret News how much his company's Gemstar satellite will cost, he responded, "I can't tell you that."
Another questioner in the audience asked whether the satellite will have a regular operational license from the Federal Communications Commission. "Until we have an operational license, it will be an experimental system," he said.
Velez said small satellites offer enormous potential for commercial uses and that with the end of the Cold War, they seem to be the way to go in the future.
With mapping, remote sensing, communications and other uses, small satellites offer a way for companies to tap into a multibillion-dollar industry, he said.
"The government is interested in the commercialization of space," he added.
Last year alone, more than 70 small satellites were launched. Since the Cold War ended and military budgets were cut, a great amount of technological talent has become available for private industry, rather than for defense.
"We're at the dawn of use of small sats (satellites) applications," Velez said. Lightweight satellites offer a chance for doing quality work at relatively low cost, he added.
Another satellite that CTA is building is called Indostar, to be launched in 1996. It will provide television coverage throughout Indonesia and is financed by private business in that country.