Sat-ND, 19.11.96

Sat-ND 96-11-19 - Satellite and Media News

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India to use indigenous launcher for IRS satellites
It's just peanuts compared to other commercial launches, of course, but
Russia's space industry will likely lose a launch order worth roughly US$15
million. India has decided to have its next remote sensing satellite IRS-1D
put into orbit by an indigenous launcher instead of a Russian Molniya
booster. The Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) was successfully
launched last March, lifting the 930-kg IRS-P3 satellite into an orbit some
800 km above the earth. Officials said the experimental phase has ended,
making the PSLV the obvious choice for launching the country's satellites.
A PSLV launch is reportedly costing just US10 million. So far, India's IRS
satellites were launched aboard Russian rockets.
A separate deal that calls for Russia to deliver three cryogenic upper
stages for an Indian Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) is not
affected by the possible re-orientation of India's space programme. The
stages are expected to be delivered in the first quarter of 1997.

SS 20 to debut with Svobodny launch
Russia will launch a spacecraft called Zeya as the first satellite from its
new Svobodny cosmodrome in December, utilising a modified version of the
combat missile formerly known as SS 20 in the West. Having undergone some
modifications, the booster rocket is now able to put research and
commercial satellites into orbit instead of carrying missile warheads.
Russian news agency Itar-Tass pointed out that the satellite called Zeya
was unique but didn't give any details except that it will be used in
navigation, geodesy and communications of Russian radio amateurs. 
According to Colonel-General Vladimir Ivanov, commander of Russia's
Military Space Forces, the Far-East cosmodrome Svobodny also is to become
the launch site for the heavy-duty Angara-class boosters that will
eventually replace the 25-year old Proton launcher.

ART, RAI reach Latin America on PAS C-band beam
Arab Radio and Television (art) and Radio Televisione Italiana (RAI) are
the latest customers on PanAmSat Corp.'s PAS 3R satellite at 43W, the
company said in a press release. Both use the Pan-American beam in the
C-band. By doing so, RAI has moved from a part-time to full-time service in
Latin America. Both channels also use capacity on PAS 4 (68.5E.)

More channels for Primestar
Primestar, one of the leading providers of digital satellite television in
the U.S., announced it will add VH1 to its PrimeValue programming package
early next year. The popular music channel is just one of the more than 50
new channels that will be available on Primestar in early 1997, when the
digital TV service moves to the GE-2 satellite. In recent weeks, Primestar
announced it will also add The History Channel, BET, The TV Food Network
and Court TV. On November 5, 1996, Comedy Central and Nick at Nite's TV
Land debuted on the service.

EchoStar set to take Boulder
More bad news for U.S. cable companies? Boulder, Colorado may soon become a
cable-free zone after its citizens have voted not to renew a contract with
cable monolith Tele-Communications Inc. (TCI.) The decision, which was
taken by a two-third majority, prompted direct-broadcast satellite company
EchoStar to make the city's residents a very special offer. 
Until December 1, EchoStar will give away its reception equipment to former
TCI subscribers who purchase a one-year subscription to EchoStar's premium
package (costing US$360 a year.) In addition, they will even pay new
customers a current bill from TCI's Boulder cable system.

Digital TV - a big deal?
By the way: U.S. Satellite TV operators say they now serve more than six
million customers or 6.4 percent of all TV households, according to the
latest figures from the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications
Association (SBCA.) DirecTV comes in first with more than 2 million
subscribers, followed by Primestar with 1.55 million. EchoStar counts
235,000 customers, while the newest player, AlphaStar, has signed up 12,000
customers, SBCA said.

No preference status for CD Radio
A service aimed at delivering satellite-based mobile digital radio for the
USA will probably not be treated better than its competitors. CD Radio Inc.
said an outside panel of government experts appointed by the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) recommended the company not receive
so-called preference status for a digital audio radio license. The decision
that is likely to be upheld by the FCC means that CD Radio Inc. will have
to bid against three other competitors. ''We are very disappointed with the
panel's recommendation, but we fully intend to participate in this business
and compete for our license in an auction,'' CD Radio Chairman and Chief
Executive David Margolese said. An FCC spokesman nonetheless pointed out
that the panel recommendation is ''very different'' from an FCC decision.
The commission is expected to issue its ruling in the first days of

More about the electronic mad cows disease
Frank Kearney sent me this from Ireland: "It looks like the French company
AB sat have sourced a far eastern supplier for there digital box/decoder.
Its expected to sell for slightly over 200ff, by far the cheapest box on
the market to date. Time will tell if its true or not. It cannot be much
worse than the box that Pace sell for the NetHold package in the
Netherlands. These units block all transmissions other than those of
NetHold, even clear MPEG 2 transmissions, and there's no sign of any
software upgrade yet. 
"Talking about upgrades: DF1 upgraded the software in there d-boxes,
allowing them to receive SCPC transmissions (signal channel per carrier),
but the box stopped working on the NetHold package. As you might expect a
lot of people who purchased the d-box for use in the Netherlands are not at
all pleased. Even with an official card they get no pictures!"
[Thank you very much, Frank. That side-effect seems to have gone unnoticed
here following the SCPC surprise. To be blunt: They shouldn't have bought
the box after all. Nobody will guarantee you that you will be able to view
anything expect for the channels set up by the company that subsidises the
box. And that definitely applies to every country in the world. -- Ed.]

Really useful
Space already is heavily commercialised, but so far it is mostly used just
for communications and broadcast purposes. One day, however, there will
probably be rubbish dumps and graveyards in space -- not just for
satellites but for all other leftovers of the human race it doesn't want on
this planet anymore.
Of course, this prediction bears no direct relationship to a company called
Forever Corporation. In a news release issued yesterday, they announced to
put some CD-ROMs into an orbit around the Earth. They will be contained in
a capsule dubbed MO-1 which is scheduled to be launched by a Russian Proton
in October 1997.
How exciting, I hear you moan. Well, what's really exciting is how they
sell it. MO-1 stands for nothing less than Millenium Orbiter 1. The CD-ROMs
it carries will contain messages, images and generally any kind of digital
blurb that Forerver Corp.'s customers might regard worthy of being lifted
into space. Out of sight is out of mind, isn't it? But to put it in Forever
Corp's words, MO-1 is "a capsule of virtual voyagers into outer space."
Nah, rubbish. It will stay in a geostationary orbit at some 36,000
kilometres height. (The good news: it will not broadcast any digital TV.)
This isn't the Voyager mission after all, even though "MO-1 is being
manufactured entirely from space-rated materials. Within a shell of
Aluminium, the diskettes [sic!] will be encased in a matrix designed to
facilitate easy removal of the diskettes [sic again!], should they be
de-orbited and recovered by people of the future." But only in case they
have a PC with CD-ROM player handy, which seems a bit unlikely to me.
Nigel Ward, company chairperson [this company seems to be highly aware of
political correctness, or do you know any woman by the name of Nigel?]
commented, "Imagine standing under the stars knowing that your image,
perhaps accompanied by a loved one is out there in space and will remain
there on a mission that may last for thousands of years." Or just imagine
everybody else on this planet couldn't care less -- which, of course, is
the bloody truth.
What will really happen is that your holiday snaps (or whatever
embarrassing material you want to get rid of) will circle the Earth for a
few thousand years and finally burn up when re-entering the atmosphere.
Future generations will surely decide that this kind of crap, sent up by
those monkeys back a few hundred years ago, isn't worth to be kept in orbit
any longer because they need more orbítal slots for digital TV satellites.
There's also a good chance that your digital memorabilia will, sooner
rather than later, end up being gazed at by some bewildered deep sea fish
just like the MARS 96 probe which also was launched using a Proton carrier

[Martyn Williams sent me this press release along with the comment "talk
about space junk..." Which is what I did. Cheers! Although this has
distracted me somewhat from the usual Sat-ND business, as you may have
noticed. Sorry, I hope to be back to normal soon once I got over it.]

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

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