Sat-ND, 3.3.97

Sat-ND 97-03-03 - Satellite and Media News

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Ecologists held a rally today in Yakutsk in the Yakutia region,
protesting against the launch of a Start-1 rocket from Russia's new
Svobodny cosmodrome. News agency Itar-Tass reported that protesters
carried banners that read "No rocket waste discharge," "Preserve
nature," and "We don't want another Baikonur." 
Well, they won't get it anyway as Svobodny is more than 1,000
kilometres away. As a matter of fact, the second stage of the rocket
will come down somewhere over Yakutia; nevertheless the regional
government had earlier agreed to the launches (Sat-ND, 1.3.97.) 
Meanwhile, the Russian Space Forces maintained their Start-1, which
is based upon an intercontinental ballistic missile, was
environmental-friendly. Besides, people in the affected areas were
offered helicopter flights to safe places free of charge.
It looks as though the inaugural Svobodny launch will take place as
planned tomorrow at 5 a.m. local time when the 87-kg satellite ZEYA
will be put into orbit. Should the protests continue, Russia's space
programme may nonetheless be in for another problem. The Start-1
launcher may be relatively small; the remainders that drop back to
earth are 4 to 6 metres long and 1.5 metres in diameter. 
But the Baikonur cosmodrome that is used so far for satellite
launches may become inoperational rather sooner than later (the
frequent power outages have become famous meanwhile.) Consequently,
there are plans to build a launch pad in Svobodny for the Angara
class of rockets which will replace the Proton. 

There's a lot of talk about space junk and the danger it poses
against spacecraft. Some parts of a Delta II rocket launched in April
made their way back to Earth, though -- quite a surprise as such
debris is usually expected to disintegrate when in re-enters the
As a matter of fact, these parts didn't stick to the rule and fell
back to Earth, to be exact: to south Texas (USA.) People there were
quite amazed when they found a 13-kg sphere which unfortunately
turned out to be not of extraterrestrial origin but just a part of
the Delta's fuel system. 
U.S. Air Force Engineers today set out to recover the parts. They
will be taken to NASA's Johnson Space Centre near Houston where
experts will try to find out why the debris hit Texas instead of
being burnt during re-entrance to the atmosphere.

And yet another country is interested in renting a spy satellite.
Colombia is not satisfied with what it gets from the U.S., as far as
aerial imaging is concerned.
All this is, of course, just to fight illicit drug crops. "We're
looking into the possibility of contracting a Canadian satellite with
great interest in an effort to technify the fight against
narco-trafficking," a Colombian counternarcotics agent announced.

When Space Systems/Loral recently announced that their satellites
have reached an overall total of 600 years in service, I wrote this:
"I don't know whether I have any readers who work for Hughes (or any
other company,) but wouldn't it be nice anyway if they could do a
calculation like that for their birds?" (Sat-ND, 19.2.97.)
Apparently, it took Hughes quite a bit of time to actually find that
pocket calculator, but meanwhile the answer has arrived in form of a
press release.
"No matter how you add the numbers, Hughes Space and Communications
Co. (HSC) is the leader in reliable satellite service in orbit," it
says, noting that "in a little more than a month, HSC-built
commercial communications satellites will set a milestone in
spaceflight, reaching a cumulative 850 years of operation in orbit."
And, hey, "this number excludes government spacecraft for weather,
communications, space exploration and defense."
That Loral number is unfair anyway: "Hughes' two nearest competitors,
also U.S. satellite builders, can each boast only 240-300 years in
orbit for their commercial communications spacecraft. Even when
adding their government satellites, they cannot come close to Hughes'
total for commercial satellites alone."
Okay, now that we know, we might as well forget about the whole thing
because it really doesn't matter anyway.

Albania has in effect pulled the plug on foreign media reporting from
the country that has been shaken by armed unrest. The European
Broadcasting Union (EBU,) the only foreign organisation with a
license for satellite uplinks from Albanian soil, said it had ceased
operations this evening after it was told their license had been
suspended as part of a state of emergency. 
The restrictions mean that European and probably all other TV
stations will have no direct access to news reports from Albania for
the time being. So far, the EBU team, which operated a mobile uplink
in the country's capitol Tirana, so far hasn't been ordered to leave
the country. 

The Spanish digital TV war took another turn today when a Madrid
lawyer filed a law suit against pay-TV company Sogecable, accusing
its executives of fraud, falsification of public documents and
misappropriation of funds. It seems serious: Sogecable's top
executives have been told to notify the court if and when they plan
to leave the country.
It's not unlikely that the law suit is related to the on-going feud
between Sogecable, 25-percent owned by France's Canal Plus, and a
digital TV platform backed by the conservative government.
The government has recently passed a decree that requires digital TV
operators to use a universal decoder standard. It's still unclear
whether the Sogecable decoder meets that criteria. A few days ago,
the government also approved legislation that would restrict
broadcasts of football [soccer] matches on digital pay-TV. Not really
a coincidence as Sogecable has secured the broadcasting rights for
the two principal football leagues.

Pearson Plc. will probably sell a part of its empire that's worth at
least 1 billion, reported the Independent on Sunday. Pearson's BSkyB
stake, worth around 400 million, will be part of the sell-off, the
paper said. Details of the major restructuring are expected to be
announced in the group's annual results to be released on March 17.

As expected, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has
cleared the way for a limited auction of DARS (digital audio radio
service) licenses (Sat-ND, 1.3.97.) 
FCC chairman Reed Hundt: "Because I do not want to delay the launch
of DARS, I very reluctantly have voted to allow the item to move
forward with that limitation," he said. The auction is now scheduled
for April 1. As it is limited, we already know the bidders: 
CD Radio Inc. (CDRD), of Washington, D.C.; American Mobile Radio
Corp., a unit of American Mobile Satellite Corp. (SKYC) of Reston,
Va.; Digital Satellite Broadcasting Corp., Seattle; and New
York-based Primosphere L.P.

The British Broadcasting Corp. has completed the sale of its domestic
radio and television transmission business to the U.S.-led consortium
Castle Transmission Services (Houston, Texas) for US$397 million.
Partners in the venture include Telediffusion de France as well as
the investment firms Berkshire Partners LLC and Candover Investments

Dutch electronic giant Philips Electronics NV will sell its cable
interests to its American partner, United International Holdings, for
US$425 million. 
United International holds a 50 percent stake in United & Philips
Holding (UPC,) Europe's largest private-sector cable operator with
2.1 million subscribers in 14 European countries and Israel.
The Wall Street Journal said that Philips was selling non-core
properties in an effort to restructure the company.

And finally, a bit of space history. 25 years ago (March 2, 1972,) a
space probe by the name of Pioneer 10 was launched. It still works,
which is quite a feat as the spacecraft's designed life span
originally amounted to just 21 months. 
It has long since left the solar system, but it is still transmitting
signals over its 8-watts transponder (its takes more than nine hours
for them to get to Earth.) 
On its journey, Pioneer 10 has taken sensational pictures especially
of Jupiter. The giant planet, by the way, also served as a catapult
for sending the probe into outer space, utilising Jupiter's
gravitational force.
It will take just 32,600 more years before Pioneer 10 reaches the
next interesting star, Ross 248. We'll keep you updated. In the
meantime, the probe will be continue to be monitored from Earth
although NASA has announced to let it flow away more or less. 
That's what space veterans consider the probe's second mission: it
carries a plaque with some symbols on it that may or may not be
deciphered by extraterrestrial beings once they pick it up. 
Nobody has described that better than Joe Jackson in his 1989 song
"Tomorrow's World" on his "Blaze and Glory" album:

Hey, d'you remember the rocket they blasted into God knows where
Yeah -- with the pictures for someone to find
With chemical symbols saying "Hi, how you doin'" to the folks out
Yeah -- they put all the Bach music in and left all that shit behind
Sometimes I think we should be sending out an SOS

It was a surprise when Rupert Murdoch appeared today on a press
conference in Tokyo. What he announced wasn't less surprising. Mr
Murdoch's News Corp and Japan's Softbank Corp. will sell the stake in
Asahi National Broadcasting Co. (TV Asahi) the acquired last June.
According to Softbank president Masayoshi Son, TV Asahi's other
shareholders, i. e. the daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun, had strongly
requested to buy back the 21.4 percent stake held by News Corp. and
Softbank. Asahi will pay just 41.74 billion (approx. US$350
million,) exactly the same price News Corp. and Softbank paid last
Asahi has indicated that it will in return support JSkyB, the digital
satellite TV project of News Corp., Softbank and Sony Corp. 

Copyright 1997 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights

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