Sat-ND, 18.11.96

Sat-ND 96-11-18 - Satellite and Media News

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Happy ending?
As probably everyone will have noticed, experts don't always predict things
correctly (Sat-ND, 17.11.96.) The Russian MARS 96 probe launched on
Saturday came back to earth sooner than expected, following a failure of
the so-called fourth stage (a part of the payload that is designed to bring
the satellite into its final transfer orbit.) MARS 96, or what was left it,
plunged into the South Pacific Ocean somewhere between Easter Island and
the Chilean coast (31 South, 96.3 West) at around 0130 UTC today.
It is unlikely that all of the craft's parts have disintegrated during
entering the atmosphere. Russian officials said the 200 grams (7 ounces) of
plutonium aboard MARS 96 were encapsulated in two small canisters designed
to survive a crash like this. 
Hopefully. In case they broke up at relatively low heights above the Earth,
the highly radioactive plutonium would in theory be sufficient to affect
the health of millions of people -- it causes lung or bone cancer even in
tiny doses.
Whatever remained of the probe now rests on the ground of the Pacific
Ocean, in one of the deepest ocean floors in the world (up to 6,000
metres.) Considering what may have happened instead, this still is a pretty
happy ending.

The Chinese View
Of course, nobody has asked China Aerospace Industry Corporation (CAIC)
what they think of the MARS 96 launch failure. They let it be known anyway.
Some Westerners, a spokeswoman said, should not be so ready to ridicule
China's failure-ridden space industry. It remains a fact, though, that
China has had six launch failures since 1992. Zhang Lihui, director of
CAIC's information office, admitted "We can understand some criticisms
about failed launches in China, but we think we get a lot of unfair
criticism." He claimed that "some individuals want to force China out of
the commercial launching markets by highlighting China's failures in its
But not even Chinese companies stick to the indigenous Long March launcher.
Asia Satellite Telecommunications Co. (Asiasat,) which is partly owned by
the Chinese government, decided to use International Launch Services (ILS)
for its ASIASAT 3 back in March 1996, just a month after the INTELSAT-708
disaster. In February 1996, at least eight people got killed when a Long
March rocket exploded shortly after launch.
Zhang Lihui also announced that CAIC will improve the ratio of performance
to price and seeks to export whole satellites by the year 2000. Obviously,
he did not mean full-blown geostationary communications satellites, an area
where China is still lagging behind. Instead, he pointed out that a remote
sensing satellite jointly developed by China and Brazil will been launched
soon. Also, a data communication satellite is to be developed in
co-operation with France.

GE Spacenet buys Bosch Telecom
GE Capital Spacenet Services, Inc., a GE Capital Services company,
announced it would continue to expand its participation in the European
communications market. Its European subsidiary, GE Capital Spacenet
Services - Europe GmbH, has signed an agreement to purchase the Satellite
Communications Services unit of Bosch Telecom GmbH (Bosch) of Stuttgart,
This unit provides Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) satellite
communications services to approximately 2,000 sites in Europe today. In
addition, GE Spacenet is currently implementing over 6,000 VSATs in Europe
and has recently completed installation of a shared hub station in
Amstelveen, The Netherlands.
The agreement, subject to the approval of the Federal Cartel Office in
Germany, was signed on November 14, 1996. Per this agreement, GE Capital
Spacenet Services - Europe GmbH will continue to operate the VSAT business
at the existing Backnang, Germany facility.

Digital bouquets in Australia
Tony Molina sent me some details on a digital satellite receiver offered in
Australia (thank you very much!) Called "DigiSkan Multi System," if offers
"DW bouquet, Star bouquet and NBC bouquet with one low cost receiver."
Their model KR888 is for sale at A$990 (US$780.)
"The receiver utilises MPEG-2 audio/video compression scheme and is
primarily DVB compatible. However, its 100% software TRANSPORT function
allows for its application in non-DVB environments such as Star TV.
"The unit has been designed around the SGS-Thomson chip-set, led by the
company's third generation MPEG products family, and used successfully by
all world leaders in digital DBS transmissions."
Quite interesting to see what's available down under. The DW bouquet
actually is called "European Bouquet," including channels such as DW TV
(Germany,) TV 5, MCM (both France,) TVE Internacional (Spain) and RAI
(Italy; cf. Sat-ND, 5.11.96.) In addition, there are also more than ten
European radio channels available. In order to receive all this, you'd have
to point your dish at 100.5E where ASIASAT 2 is located. The satellite
covers 53 countries that make up for two thirds of the world's population.

By Dr Sarmaz <DrSarmaz@aol.com>

Digital dictator
Lord Thomson of Monifieth is not only a Liberal Democrat, he is also a
former chairman of the UK's Independent Broadcasting Authority. In the
House of Lords, he today urged for "vigorous action" by the British
government to stop Rupert Murdoch's News International getting a monopoly
on decoders for digital TV.
"Underneath technical matters, there lies a very serious public interest
issue in the field of competition policy.
"We are dealing with one media group, the Murdoch group, which at the
moment has 36% of our national Press and a dominating position in satellite
subscription broadcasting.
"If there is not sufficiently vigorous action by the Government, it could
be in a dominating position in regard to the new digital technology." The
Government should "take pro-active action rather than waiting to see what
the Murdoch interests do".
There has been quite a bit of debate in the House of Lords, but Lord Archer
of Weston-Super-Mare put his finger on the spot when he commented that
"this question has proved is that we have got far too many television
programmes already." 
Lord Archer may better be known as the successful novelist Jeffrey Archer
("The Fourth Estate," "Kain and Abel.") He is not to be confused with a
Swiss downhill mountain biker of the same name, by the way.

Zeroes and Ones
By Grandpa Zheng <http://www.sat-net.com/pck/zheng/>

Will the German government finally wake up?
Those Internet illiterates which unfortunately comprise Germany's
conservative government will soon have to realise that their absurd
attempts to censor the Internet will not only lead a loss of international
reputation but also to less tax revenues. CompuServe GmbH said it may move
its Munich-based administrative operations out of Germany while upholding
services for German customers. "We can be a provider from another country,"
said CompuServe spokeswoman Doris Kretzen. 
Speaking on German television, CompuServe's general manager in Germany,
Felix Somm, indicated the service's German headquarters might migrate to
Luxembourg: "There's no way that a provider has to make massive investments
to control an international network, if you can offer services at
significantly less cost next door."
A law under consideration in Germany's parliament would require online
services to block access to child pornography, neo-Nazi sites as well as
other extreme materials on the Internet (although everybody with just a
rudimentary knowledge on the Internet knows that such attempts are futile

Just hype?
A new kind of crime has premiered on the Internet: song theft. Has it? 
Hackers allegedly stole two yet unreleased songs from a computer in a
record studio where the Irish rock group U2 currently produces an album
scheduled for release in spring. According to a British newspaper, the
songs did not only appear on several Internet sites around the world but
were also sold on CD at street markets.
A conventional theft has been ruled out, the paper said. But who knows, no
hackers may be involved at all. The whole thing may just be just an
extremely smart move to promote the forthcoming U2 album -- who knows?

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

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