The following was released today by the Volunteers in Technical Assistance:

The Federal Communications Commission has authorized VITA to
operate two low orbiting satellites that constitute the VITAsat
`virtual constellation.’ In late November 2000 the FCC granted VITA
Special Temporary Authority to operate the HealthSat-2 satellite
and a transponder on the UoSAT-12 satellite, which VITA calls
VITAsat-1R and VITAsat-2. Both satellites will be used in an
innovative system to provide communications services to isolated
rural areas of developing countries. The temporary authority allows
VITA, in coordination with its partners Wavix
(, SatelLife,
(, and
Surrey Satellite Technology, Ltd. (
to begin
operations after nearly a decade of development, experimentation,
and demonstration.

“We are enormously grateful to the FCC for their speed in
granting the needed authorizations,” said George Scharffenberger,
VITA’s president. “It permits us to begin deployment of stations
immediately while meeting milestones required by the International
Telecommunications Union early in 2001.” Mr. Scharffenberger
continued, “Throughout this process, the FCC has consistently
demonstrated its support for VITA’s efforts to serve developing
nations. The FCC’s latest action makes it possible for VITA to
bring the power and potential of the Internet to remote areas
lacking terrestrial communications facilities.” VITA expects
additional FCC action before the temporary orders expire in May

Manufactured through arrangements made by its commercial partner
Wavix, VITA’s “portable ground stations” were developed by VITA
Volunteer Dr. David Palmer of England
Experience gained with the PGS
will be assimilated into a more advanced design effort by Wavix
leading to the manufacture of hundreds of ground stations during
2001. Wavix is currently recruiting engineers and technicians to
design, test and manufacture its advanced terminal.

VITAsat will deliver sustainable, low-cost communications and
information services for humanitarian purposes to remote
communities having no access to line-based or wireless telephone
service. VITAsat’s targeted information content and services are
designed specifically to meet the needs of small businesses, local
NGOs (non-governmental organizations), educators, health workers,
researchers, administrators, agricultural extensionists, natural
resources managers and other relief and development workers. The
system uses simple, reliable, store-and-forward email messages
relayed to the Internet via the orbiting satellites and gateway
stations. Advanced compression technology and software that allows
access to web pages using email make the vast information resources
of the web available via VITAsat anywhere in the world.

VITA began experimenting with low orbiting satellites and
ground-based information delivery systems in 1984 and was awarded
the FCC’s Pioneers Preference Award for Low Earth Orbiting (LEO)
Satellites in 1993. It was also recognized for its work by the
Society of Satellite Professionals International in February 2000
with a special “Industry Innovators” award; SSTL was similarly
honored. Wavix’s technology accomplishments were recognized by NASA
with its Space-Act Award, and by the Small Business Adminstration
with its 1999 Tibbett’s Award (contact: John Borden, SatelLife’s HealthNet information and
communication services are used by nearly 19,500 health care
workers in more than 150 countries worldwide (contact: Holly Ladd,