Sat-Nd, 4.6.96

Sat-ND 96-06-04 - Satellite and Media News

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This issue is sponsored by TELE-satellite, Europe's Satellite Magazine 
Have a look at their homepage! >> http://www.TELE-satellit.com/ <<

Ariane 5 -- The explosion
"The first Ariane-5 flight did not result in validation of Europe's new
launcher." This is how the European Space Agency and French space agency
CNES summarised today's launch attempt in a joint statement. Flight 501
ended after 41 seconds in what from the ground looked "like fireworks" (as
Franco-German TV channel arte put it in its news show today.)
According to Raymond Orye, ESA's head of the Ariane-5 programme, the
exhaust nozzles of the two solid boosters began to swivel irregularly
about 37 seconds into the flight. At the same time, a malfunction of the
gyroscopic guidance systems seems to have occurred. Both events resulted
in a change of the rocket's course (or trajectory, for the experts.) The
stress that was by then exerted onto the body began to cause structural
damage just a few seconds later. Judging from the video recording of
today's live transmission, the rocket more or less broke apart at second
38 or 39, and fuel already seemed to be spilled at that point. At second
41, one of the on-board security systems was automatically activated. They
are designed to destroy the rocket under controlled circumstances to
prevent further damage from large parts of debris falling to the ground.
"Controlled" in this context means that the fuel tanks are intentionally
torn apart, leading to a final explosion that blows anything left of the
launcher into smithereens. Somewhat later, there apparently also was the
famous self-destruct command sent up from ground control, but the video
suggests that there was hardly anything left that could have reacted to
the signal. 
So far, there is at least one positive aspect. It looks as though the by
far most important part of Ariane 5, the main cryogenic stage, was not
involved in the system's overall malfunction. However, a board of inquiry
will be set up within the next few days. Its findings are expected to be
reported in mid-July. 

Ariane 5 -- Reactions
"Of course its a disappointment, but I have been in this job for almost 40
years and I know we must always bounce back after a disappointment," said
Arianespace chairman Charles Bigot in a TV interview.
But while there are no direct consequences resulting from today's launch
failure apart from the loss of four research satellites (it was an
experimental flight anyway,) Arianespace might once again run into
problems with its time schedule. One of the main investors into the
project, Germany's DASA, does not expect the planned series of eight
launches to be completed by 2000. "We can't assess yet the danger that we
will be too late in getting our product onto the market," warns Josef
Kind, head of DASA's space infrastructure division. 
Satellite organisations expressed their trust in Arianespace. "We have
absolute confidence that Arianespace will provide us with a successful
launch," said an INTELSAT spokesman, referring to the June 12 launch of
INTELSAT 709 aboard an Ariane 4 which will go ahead as scheduled. EUTELSAT
spokeswoman Vanessa O'Connor assured "we are not going to cancel any
contracts with Arianespace. It would need a string of unsuccessful
Even the Ariane 5 schedule might not be affected. The second flight,
originally slated for September, might go ahead as planned. ESA and CNES
confirmed that "a second test will take place in a few months' time." 

INTELSAT to launch two Asian Hotbirds
Intelsat has announced plans for a regional centre in Singapore and the
launch of two more satellites for the Asian region. Intelsat vice
president of sales and marketing, Gary Smith today painted a rosy picture
of the situation when he told the press that  "most [Asian] governments
previously held monopolistic views on their  telecommunications. But
that's changing. No one wants to be left out of the global communications
network." Nevertheless, reception of satellite TV with individual dishes
is still banned in many countries of the region, Singapore included. The
only real relaxation has so far appeared on the commercial sector.
Companies may now bypass Singapore telecom and lease their capacities
directly from Intelsat. Thus, the two new INTELSATs dubbed "Hotbird" will
provide services for corporate data transmission and telephony links
between Singapore and the rest of the world. 
Intelsat expects up to 30 percent of its revenue generated in the Asian
region by 2000. Last year, the figure amounted to 23 percent.

Home shopping plague reaches Asia
Hong Kong-based Asia Satellite  Telecommunications Co. Ltd. has a new
customer for its ASIASAT 2 on 100.7E. The Australian Value Network (TVN)
leased a 36 MHz C-band transponder on the satellite, enabling them to
reach 3.3 billion potential customers with a home shopping channel from
July this year. The service will be called TVSN just like its Australian
counterpart that has been on air since December 1995. According to
Asisat's CEO Peter Jackson, the agreement will bring one of the first home
shopping channels into Asia. "Given Asia has the world's largest
population, and the fastest-developing economies, its potential for growth
is enormous," adds TVN president William Schereck.

Who's talking now?
NBC has run into serious problems with its MSNBC news channel due to
replace NBC's cable channel America's Talking (AT) by July 15. Many cable
networks in the United States still refuse to relay the channel. Operating
companies claim they have almost no room left on cable. NBC reacted
furiously: every cable company that removes AT from cable will be sued.
NBC also threatens to remove its main channel from cable. That would be a
heavy blow for any cable operator, since NBC is not only one of the four
major networks but also holds the US broadcast rights for the Olympic
Games until 2008. (Jitse Groen/pck)

Sell two satellites, get 27 transponders
US cable giant TCI has disclosed its plans for a direct-broadcast service
on Canadian satellites. As there are already some DBS packages on air and
several more planned, content can't make up too much of a difference.
Instead, TCI points out that the viewer's initial costs would be lower
thanks to a leasing plan totalling US$480 a year. Purchasing equipment for
DirecTV, the leading digital TV package in the US, amounts to US$654 along
with service for the first year.
This is by no means a new marketing model. It has been introduced by the
medium-power package Primestar that is meanwhile owned by TCI, Time Warner
Inc., Comcast Corp., Cox Communications Inc., and others. 
Under the so-called facilities agreement with Telesat Canada, TCI would
sell Telesat two existing satellites and buy back 27 transponders for use
in the USA. TCI chairman John Malone claims the agreement was "a profound
win-win for consumers in both the U.S. and Canada, and it is inconceivable
that it would not be approved by governments in both countries. In Canada,
the facilities agreement will make possible the first lawful DTH service.
In the U.S., our standard package of high-powered DTH and related service
will go on the market for a price considerably less than prices prevailing

Beeb hits cartoon coup
Finally, the Simpsons make it to terrestrial TV in the UK. So far, the
famous cartoon family could only be seen via satellite  for an extra fee
on Sky TV. This seemed logical, as the show is distributed by Rupert
Murdoch's Twentieth Century Fox International Television who also happens
to control BSkyB. Twentieth Century Fox has now sold what seems to be
secondary transmission rights to the BBC. UK viewers will see the series
on BBC 1 later this year, probably starting with the very first episode.
Congratulations, I envy you!

AT&T unveils high-speed data transmission technology
There's a lot of talk about Internet via satellite, interactive services
over cable modems, and other methods of high-speed data transmission.
Forget all about it, says US company AT&T, it can all be done over a
normal telephone line. Honestly, I don't know how they do it (although
some kind of data compression has to be involved.) AT&T claims their
device called Paradyne provides transmission speeds up to 400 times faster
than with a 14.4 modem. The technology has already been licensed to about
10 U.S. based telecommunications manufacturers and 11 more companies
abroad. We'll know more in a few weeks time as the product is already
expected to hit the markets by August this year.

Thanks to our contributor --
Jitse Groen: jgl@dds.nl

Copyright 1996 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.

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