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Interview with Jack Bosma, Head of Large Platform Mission Office, about the new European Cooperative that ESA and CNES are implementing:
Why a large Telecommunication Platform?
"Prior to market downturn US competition entered the satcom market with satellite systems supporting payload power above 14 kW. The US continues to offer large satcoms (e.g recent bid for NATO based on Boeing 702 derivative), while the Growth potential of existing European satcom lines is limited to 14 KW.
In today's market, a single European satellite manufacturer cannot afford the R&D investment to successfully compete with the US in this sector. Europe risks losing future market share and the possibility of offering a complete range of satcom products."
What are the objectives of the Large Platform Initiative?
"First of all, to develop a new European multipurpose platform for large telecommunications payloads and to regroup European satellite industry and consolidate a leader in the commercial satcom sector. Then of course to stimulate Europeanisation and increase the share of non-prime equipment suppliers compared to today's satcom lines. And last but not least, to maintain European independence and to overcome the technology gap with the US."
And the next steps?
"The preparatory design phase of the platform - the so-called Alphabus - has been underway since mid 2002 and together with CNES we plan to place contracts for the development of the generic production line of Alphabus early 2004. This activity covers the manufacturing of engineering and development models to qualify Alphabus significantly beyond the payload power handling capability of the US competition.
As a further initiative ESA will procure protoflight hardware to guarantee continuity of the development process in particular with our equipment providers. 2003 will be a key year for preparing the legal and programmatic framework between ESA, CNES and Industry. Our combined objective is for Alphabus to bid on the world market in 2005, with first commercial launches projected for 2008.
Finally, the Large Platform Mission Office is actively pursuing a sponsorship for an early demonstrator mission to promote the commercialisation of Alphabus."