Sat-ND, 13.3.97

Sat-ND 97-03-13 – Russian rocket and Japanese TV News

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Sometimes it's hard to keep up will all those soviet ICBMs
(Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) that are now being converted to
simple satellite launchers. This happens, by the way, not just to
make money but also to get rid of them anyway in accordance to
international arms reduction treaties. 
Here's the next one: what was known as RS-20 in the East and SS-18 in
the West, now becomes Dnjepr and plays an important part in the
Teledisc project. 
For some adverse technical reasons, the so-called "Internet in the
sky" will need no less that 840 satellites to provide global services
(and a few dozens as in-orbit spare.) Although the satellites can be
stacked within a rocket to accommodate for multiple launches, the
whole system calls for an unprecedented number of launches. 
That's were Dnjepr comes into play. The space agencies of Russia and
the Ukraine will by the end of this month found an international
company to Dnjepr market launch services, reported Itar-Tass. An
initial US$100 million are needed to start up the conversion; there
are no details yet on who supplies that sum. But although it doesn't
actually exist, the company already has already reached a tentative
agreement with Teledesic to launch 22 of its satellites; the launch
of 80 more is currently being negotiated.
Interestingly, Itar-Tass claims that the agreement is not actually
with Teledesic but with... Microsoft. This claim is very likely
either nonsense or ignorance, but then again: who knows? Microsoft
boss William Henry ("Bill") Gates III is one of the backers of the
project. In the past, he portrayed himself as not much more than a
passive investor. (However, he could indeed pay the system's
estimated cost of US$9 billion in cash and still remain one of the
richest persons in the world.)
A Dnjepr launch is estimated at US$11 million. Itar-Tass did not say
how many Teledesic satellites can be carried into low earth orbit
with one launch, but the number of 22 contracted launches indicates
that the answer is two. (Applied arithmetic: the only alternatives
one, eleven, and 22 can be ruled out.) Estimated from this price, the
launch cost for a complete set of Teledesic satellites will roughly
take up the half of the US$9 billion needed.
But back to the launcher itself. The Soviet Union used to have more
than 300 of those RS-20 rockets; roughly two third of them in Russia,
the rest in Kazakhstan. The have to be eliminated by 2003 to keep up
with international disarmament accords. But even in the most unlikely
case that all of them carried two Teledesic satellites into orbit,
the company would still have to look for launch opportunities for
roughly 300 satellites.

Lockheed Martin Corp. will build SATELIT TELKOM 1 for PT
Telekomunikasi Indonesia, according to a local newspaper. The
36-transponder satellite will replace PALAPA B2R at 108°E (which
obviously is a replacement itself :-) 
Telkom and Lockheed signed a letter of intent on Tuesday in Jakarta
for construction of the satellite, scheduled for launching in late
1998. The contract, which will call for a delivery within 18 months,
is expected to be signed in March.
That's not enough for Telkom, however, as the telecommunications
company reportedly needs 60 transponders by 2010 to keep up with the
demand for telephone connections in Indonesia.

The European Patent Office has issued its second patent in two months
to satellite-builder TRW Inc. for the TRW-invented Odyssey global
satellite phone system, TWR said in a press release.
"This patent expands the protection granted TRW by the first European
patent. It strengthens the exclusivity provided for our invention and
will make it extremely difficult for another system to imitate our
medium-Earth-orbit system without infringing," said Bruce Gerding,
TRW vice president and managing director of the company's Odyssey
Services Organisation. 
The European patent applies in the United Kingdom, France, and
Germany through the year 2011. Gerding noted that the patent
underwent two "third party observations," or challenges, from an
unnamed competitor. "These challenges notwithstanding, the patent
issued following oral proceedings in the European Patent Office
before a board of three highly-experienced examiners," Gerding said. 
Odyssey will use 12 satellites in a medium-earth orbit 10,354
kilometers in altitude to provide low-cost phone, fax, and data
services world-wide. Dual-mode cellular-satellite pocket phones will
allow Odyssey subscribers to place calls over existing cellular
networks whenever possible. 
That's nothing really new, however; other services offer just that,
but from a different orbit. The European patent issued yesterday (No.
EP 0510789) is similar to TRW's third U.S. patent, issued last year.
It applies to TRW's invention of a system for using a mobile phone to
communicate via satellites to another phone. The claims cover a
system whose satellites reside in circular orbits between 7,400 and
13,900 km above the earth, and have antennas that can receive the
signals from the mobile phone. 
Odyssey is under development by Odyssey Telecommunications
International Inc. (OTI), in which TRW is a founding partner. TRW
will design and build the satellites under contract to OTI, as well
as the system's operations centre and its seven earth stations, which
are linked by a wide-area network. 
*) "Odyssey," Microsoft® Encarta® 96 Encyclopedia. © 1993-1995
Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. © Funk & Wagnalls
Corporation. All rights reserved. 
[Homer Simpson?! – Ed.]

Japan looks poised to foster digital satellite TV services by
liberalising rates charged by domestic commercial satellite
operators, reported Nihon Keizai Shimbun. Satellite operators will be
free to negotiate theirs fees with broadcasters  based on free-market
Currently, the two commercial providers of satellite services (Japan 
Satellite Systems Inc. and Space Communications Corp.) charge a
(probably annual) fee of US$3.3 – 4.9 million for the use of a
transponder for digital TV, which is reportedly two or three times
higher than in the United States. However, this is probably still
less than what European satellite organisations charge for an
analogue transponder (up to US$7 million p.a.) Frankly, I don't know
whether they take the same rate for digital transponders or whether
they offer some discount, acknowledging that digital satellite TV in
Europe will probably not become a mass medium anyway. 

I love press releases. They're so timely and accurate.
Today I learned that VDOnet Corp. announced on Wednesday that
"tagesschau," Germany's most-watched television news show, has
adopted VDOLive to broadcast its news programs three times each day
on the Web.
What's wrong? Nothing. It's all true except for the fact that ARD
aktuell, the news department of Germany's pubcaster ARD, has been
using VDO for months on its web site.

FEEDBACK: Sat-ND, 13.3.97

"As far as I know Polsat is having an own network of transmitters.
They are covering most of Poland (not only by satellite and cable.)"
(Michal Kolodziej)

"I was in Poland for all of February this year. The terrestrial
channels available in all of Poland are as follows: TVP1, TVP2,
Polsat, Rai UNO(!), Canal Plus Polska. The two regional broadcasters,
at least in Krakow are Tv Wisla and TVP Krakowia. Polsat is on
terrestrial as well as satellite. The surprise is Rai Uno."
(Robin Clarke)

[Thank you both! I was just trying to find out whether anyone still
reads this stuff. Of course, just by cable and satellite, Polsat
couldn't have reached more than a third of the audience, could it? –

As reported earlier, Sony Corp seems to have reached a tentative
agreement to become an equal partner in JSkyB, the
direct-broadcast-satellite TV service in Japan formed by Rupert
Murdoch's News Corp. and Japan's Softbank Corp. The Wall Street
Journal reported that the agreement comes after months of talks. The
companies involved admitted they had made "substantial progress" but
neither timing nor structure of the deal haven't been finalised yet. 
Sony does not only hope to exploit its software assets (actually, it
owns one of the largest movie and TV libraries in Hollywood) but also
to supply the set-top boxes that are needed for reception. However,
the Sony involvement in JskyB is not exactly exclusive. Rivalling
digital TV services have expressed their expectations to be supplied
with TV programming as well, and besides Sony will equip JskyB rival
DirecTV with up-to-date broadcasting equipment.
Sony also hopes for a deal to supply Mr. Murdoch's American digital
TV service with set-top boxes although Echostar, which is about to
merge its digital business with that of Mr Murdoch, would probably be
keen on doing exactly that. Anyway, Sony has also supplied set-top
boxes for the first U.S. digital TV service DirectTV, set up by

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

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