Harris launches Class T flow for commerial Satellites

MELBOURNE, Fla. - Leaders of Harris Semiconductor Corp. in Melbourne, Fla., are forging ahead with a product flow for the new Class T components aimed at commercial space operations.

By John Rhea

MELBOURNE, Fla. - Leaders of Harris Semiconductor Corp. in Melbourne, Fla., are forging ahead with a product flow for the new Class T components aimed at commercial space operations.

Harris is to be the first company to date to disclose plans to do so, and Harris officials anticipate reducing prices by 30 percent from the current top-of-the-line Class V parts within the MIL-PRF-38535 Qualified Manufacturers list (QML).

Other semiconductor makers have been wary about the new category, contending that the current Classes V and Q (used in most military programs) maintained by the Defense Supply Center Columbus (DSCC) in Columbus, Ohio, are sufficient and that an additional class will fragment the market. The satellite producers, notably Hughes Space & Communications in El Segundo, Calif., have been the strongest supporters of the new class as a means to reduce costs and lead times.

Jim Gill, Harris`s manager of military and space product marketing, strongly supports Class T and backs up his support with a line of 33 device types for which the company is taking orders now for delivery in eight weeks. The minimum order is 1,000 devices per part type, and initially they will be built to order, but Gill says the company`s goal is to establish an inventory.

In announcing what company leaders call their Satellite Applications Flow, Harris officials say this is "an evolutionary path" to include Class T within QML, not to replace Class V or Q. This enables customers to take advantage of the ease of procurement that DSCC`s standard military drawings provide, they add. The company established the new flow by using existing people and equipment, Gill says, and the Class T devices will be built on the same semiconductor lines as V and Q.

The devices, which Harris guarantees for total dose radiation hardness, include multiplexers, RS422 line receivers/transmitters, a comparator, switches, low-noise operational amplifiers, a 12-bit digital-analog converter, programmable read-only memories, and logic products. Applications specific integrated circuits are due to be added later.

A typical price for a Harris Class T part is $341 for the HS9-1840A radiation-hardened l6-channel multiplexer. A Class V version would cost $488, Gill says.

Harris officials maintain that there is sufficient volume to make Class T viable and that the parts makers will be able to accomplish the appropriate screening and documentation to make sure that the parts are used only in commercial applications. Company leaders say they do not want these parts to "trickle" into Air Force and NASA programs that have more stringent specifications.

Gill cites estimates that some 2,000 commercial and scientific satellites for operation in low-Earth orbit will be built over the next 20 years at a total cost of $86 billion. Assuming a 10 percent semiconductor content, that represents a potential market of $8.6 billion for the parts makers, of which Gill expects some $5 billion worth could be satisfied by Class T.

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