Fairchild Industries Inc.'s American Satellite Co. joint venture asked the Federal Communications Commission yesterday for authority to operate a $227 million domestic satellite system that the company said it needs to remain competitive in telecommunications.
The three-satellite system could begin operations with a launch as soon as October 1985. It will mark the first time the Rockville company has owned and operated its own satellites.
Although American Satellite operates more than 100 earth stations--the largest such network in its field--the company provides voice, data and video services to 250 government and business users using satellite space leased from Western Union Telegraph Co.
The nine-year-old company originally was a wholly owned subsidiary of Fairchild, which is based in Germantown, but now it is a joint venture of Fairchild and Continental Telephone Corp.
American Satellite said in a filing with the FCC that its current leasing arrangements will not provide the satellite capacity to carry the company past the middle of the current decade. To meet growth and new service plans, American Satellite "must launch its own system to remain a viable competitor," the company said.
American Satellite was essentially alone in providing high-speed satellite services to business when its operations began in 1974, but it expects to make its first profit in 1982. The two partners in the 50-50 venture have put about $100 million each into the system.
The company said its satellites will be the first to have the capability to operate in two frequency bands. New earth stations would be built to accommodate this dual technology, the company said.
The satellites also will have a 10-year life span, and could be launched either by the space shuttle--the company's current plan--or by conventional American or European rockets.
The company said that although it will continue to develop the market in its current services, it plans to expand efforts in a number of fields, including video teleconferencing, or televised meeting services.
In addition, American Satellite said it plans to offer new high-speed data, broadcast and transponder service for other telecommunications vendors and for television and radio programmers.