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Sat-ND 97-04-18 - Satellite and Media News

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TODAY'S HEADLINES:
LAUNCHES
* TWO FOR ASIA
* THAICOM 3
* BSAT-1A
* SATELLITE LAUNCHES -- OR MORE FIREWORKS?
* FIRST-EVER SATELLITE LAUNCH FROM WESTERN EUROPE?
SATELLITES
* NO KICKBACKS, PLEASE
* INSAT TO COVER THE WORLD?
* GIVE PAY TV NO CHANCE
DIGITAL
* MSNBC: GERMAN VERSION
* HUGHES TO PRODUCE MICROSOFT CARD
POLISH TELEVISION
* TVP TO SUPPORT PHOENIX
RUPERTWATCH
* JSKYB DETAILS STILL UNCLEAR
* RUPERT IN CHILWORTH

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Editorial Note

Here are some news from the past few days. Sorry, that doesn't mean that
Sat-ND is back to normal operation yet; I just happened to have a few hours
of spare time. The next issue will probably appear early next week when the
more or less daily distribution of this so-called newsletters will
[hopefully] be re-established. -- PCK



LAUNCHES

TWO FOR ASIA
After the usual delays over the past few weeks, Arianespace yesterday
successfully launched Thailand's third telecommunications satellite,
THAICOM 3, and the Japanese direct-broadcast satellite BSAT-1a. Arianespace
provided launch services within the frame of contracts with the
manufacturers of the respective satellites (Aerospatiale of France and
Hughes Space & Communication International of the United States.) 
Flight 95 was carried out by an Ariane 44LP, the version of the European
launcher with two solid-propellant and two liquid-propellant strap-on
boosters. The next launch, Flight 96, is scheduled for May 13. An Ariane
44P launch vehicle will be used to place into orbit the PAS-6 direct
television broadcast satellite for PanAmSat, a private U.S. company. PAS-6
will cover the South American Market. Following Flight 95 and the signing
of K-TV contract early this month with INTELSAT, Arianespace has now 39
satellites on order to be launched. 


THAICOM 3
THAICOM 3 is the third Thai satellite entrusted to Ariane. Launched by the
private company Shinawatra Satellite, within the scope of a contract with
Aerospatiale, it was built at Aerospatiale's Cannes manufacturing facility
in southern France. THAICOM 3 weighed 2,650 kg (5,830 lb) at liftoff, and
is equipped with 39 C- and Ku-band transponders, making it the most
powerful Aerospatiale-built satellite in orbit. It will complete Thailand's
national satellite telecommunications system, along with THAICOM 1 and 2.
According to Aerospatiale, the total cost of THAICOM 3 was over US$200
million.
THAICOM 3 will be located at 78.5E and replace THAICOM 2, which will be
moved to 120E. Shinawatra hopes to expand its business beyond the borders
of its country. So far, just ten percent of the THAICOM capacity were used
by foreign companies. The half of THAICOM 3's transponders, however, will
be used by customers from outside Thailand.


BSAT-1A
BSAT-1a is the 10th Japanese satellite to be launched from Kourou, out of
the 12 launch service contracts Arianespace has signed to date in Japan. It
was built and delivered in orbit by Hughes Space & Communications
International of El Segundo, California. Weighing 1,236 kg (2,719 lb.) at
lift-off, it has 8 Ku-band transponders. BSAT-1a will be operated by the
B-SAT consortium of Japan (including major Japanese broadcasters including
NHK and Japan Satellite Broadcasting Inc.'s WOWOW group) and will deliver
TV programs directly to homes throughout the country. Experts estimated the
cost of BSAT-1a at over US$150 million.
The spacecraft, an HS 376 spin-stabilised satellite, will be stationed at
110 degrees East longitude, replacing BS-3 which is currently being used
for DBS services by NHK, WOWOW, and others. The satellite has more than
12.5 years of propellant life. It carries four active and four spare
high-power transponders in Ku-band, using 106-watt travelling-wave tube
amplifiers. EIRP coverage over Japan will be equivalent to those of the
current BS-3 spacecraft. 


SATELLITE LAUNCHES -- OR MORE FIREWORKS?
China will once again try to put some satellites into orbit with their Long
March rockets over the next months. First, they're going to practise with
indigenous birds, of course. The first candidate will be DONGFANGHONG (DFH)
3 (the name translates to "The East is red" -- well, who would doubt that.)
Its launch was originally scheduled for last October but was postponed
following one of the usual launch failures. Now, China Aerospace Corp. will
put DFH 3 on its very own Long March next May, with company officials
saying at least three more satellite launches are being prepared. In
October, a meteorological satellite will be launched (will it?) before it
gets serious. At least, a bit. 
Among the foreign spacecraft waiting to get a lift are a Philippine
telecommunications satellite and APSTAR IIR, a replacement for APSTAR II
(now guess who killed that bird and, unfortunately, six people, too.) Apart
from that, APSTAR IIR isn't too "foreign" as its operating company is
Hong-Kong based.


FIRST-EVER SATELLITE LAUNCH FROM WESTERN EUROPE?
It seems as though actually no satellite has ever been launched from
Western European soil. This is not a surprise as this part of the world is
totally unsuitable for satellite launches owing to geographical reasons --
at least when it comes to heavy payloads. But a cute, fluffy mini satellite
could be launched into a low Earth orbit, with an altitude of 587
kilometres and an inclination of 151 degrees, and this is exactly what is
going to happen next Monday (April 21.) 
Purists may not call it a "launch from Western European soil," though. A
Pegasus XL rocket will be used to carry the Spanish MiniSat into its orbit,
but not from some place in Spain. Instead, both the rocket and its payload
aboard will be carried aloft to approximately 13 kilometres at a
predetermined location over the Atlantic Ocean by a specially prepared
aircraft. 
The 195 kilogram MiniSat satellite is designed to perform several
scientific missions, including the study of background radiation in the
extreme ultraviolet range, the behaviour of liquid bridges (please don't
ask me what a "liquid bridge" is; this is from a press release) in
micro-gravity conditions and the investigation of low-energy gamma radiation. 
Western European launch or not, Pegasus manufacturer Orbital Sciences Corp.
(which is U.S.-American anyway) stated that its air-launched system gave
them the unrivalled ability to conduct space launches from virtually
anywhere on Earth.


RUSSIAN LAUNCH BUREAUCRACY
Russia has launched another military satellite aboard a Kosos 3M rocket as
planned. However, a U.S. subsatellite that was to accompany the payload had
to stay grounded. Russian officials said that one of the reasons was a lack
of required documents.
The story is more than just confusing; it isn't even quite clear what the
U.S. satellite is called -- FAISAT 2B or FAISAT 2V -- and when it will be
launched (reports from various sources suggest delays between a week and
several months.) So the following may also be wrong: FAISAT is an
experimental satellite designed to conduct experiments in preparation for a
26-satellite Low-Earth Orbit system, planned by the U.S. company FAI.



SATELLITES

NO KICKBACKS, PLEASE
The Pakistani goverment has given green light for PAKSAT, a national
communications satellite worth US$220 million. Pakistan will order the
spacecraft from France's Alcatel Espace which in advance, strangely enough,
had to certify it hadn't paid any kickbacks for the project (probably
because it was initiated by a previous government.) 
PAKSAT will carry 26 transponders and have an operational life span of 15
years.


INSAT TO COVER THE WORLD?
India has just three slots reserved on the geostationary belt for its INSAT
birds: 93.5E, 83E, and 74E. Not enough, as there will be quite a number
of new INSATs over the next few years -- but filing for 29 new orbital
positions may be a bit of an exaggeration, especially as the range covers
practically all of the Earth's land mass.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) wants slots between 51.5E
and 113.5E as well as 13W and 108W even though it appears unlikely that
the subcontinent can be reached by satellites positioned on Western latitudes.
Like other Asian countries, India was a bit slow in noticing that
international organisations and companies such as Intelsat, PanAmSat etc.
have been collecting orbital positions like other people collect stamps.
Too bad as those positions are assigned on a first come, first served basis.


GIVE PAY TV NO CHANCE
The European Parliament and the European council of minister reportedly
have agreed on the disputed "Television without frontiers" guidelines. I
have no further details, but it seems that major events such as the Olympic
Games will stay to be freely available to European viewers (but not
necessarily live.) At least, the must not exclusively be offered by Pay-TV
companies. The member countries of the European Union will now be asked to
supply lists of national and international events they consider important.
The EU commission will then check whether the submissions are in line with
the regulation.



DIGITAL

MSNBC: GERMAN VERSION
No, luckily it's not the U.S. cable channel known as MSNBC that goes
German, it's just a World Wide Web Site. But the again,
http://www.msnbc.com is one of the larger ones, and setting up a similar
German version will include some effort, for instance the incredible amount
of 20 online journalists providing some kind of content -- either of their
own or translated from MSNBC's Web Site.
I forgot to mention MSNBC's partner -- it's the German public TV
broadcaster ZDF, a station known for a chronic lack of money despite its
funding by license fees. While ZDF may not show commercials in its TV
output during prime time, there are no such regulations for its Internet
services (yet?) So, guess what: Germans don't have to pay anything to
access the ZDFMSNBC service (or whatever that muddle will be called when
launched next August.) Instead, they just have to look at the usual, silly
ad banners Internet surfers have in the meatime learned to ignore anyway. 
All this may explain why ZDF's Web Site was (and is) available under two
URLs: http://www.zdf.de (as one might expect) and http://www.zdfmsn.de. The
latter one may well become the URL of the planned new service. Holger
Zeissler, a contributor to this service, who -- unlike me -- still seems to
watch TV, has recently noted that ZDF seems to have stopped promoting this
URL on air. Big things to come there? 


HUGHES TO PRODUCE MICROSOFT CARD
Hughes Network Systems, Inc. (HNS), which describes itself as "the world
leader in satellite delivery of data to the PC," announced that the
development of its Digital Satellite System PC card -- dubbed DSS-PC -- is
on track for introduction later this year, with the company finalising tests.
No -- this is not DirecPC, a service also offered by Hughes, although the
DSS-PC card includes elements of that satellite data delivery technology.
As HSN points out, the new card "has been designed for the recently
announced broadcast capabilities in Microsoft Windows." It will deliver a
multitude of video and data services to multimedia PC platforms that are
expected to hit the market soon.
Once equipped with a DSS-PC card, those new multimedia PC systems will be
able to receive DirecTV television programming [in the USA, that is, but
other countries will undoubtedly follow;] enhanced video services and other
multimedia services, offering users the ability to view their favourite Web
sites through DirecTV. In addition, consumers will be able to watch their
favourite TV shows enhanced with complementary data information (critics
might just call that superfluous instead.) Microsoft's Windows software
provides an interface to consumers allowing them to customise the data and
TV programming they will receive from DirectTV, HSN said in a press
release. They did not say whether the next Windows version will come out
this year. Latest indications are that it won't, so both HSN and Microsoft
may have to wait for the 1998 Christmas season to cash in -- in case
consumers are interested, which shouldn't be taken for granted anyway.



POLISH TELEVISION

TVP TO SUPPORT PHOENIX
As regular readers may have noticed by now, Sat-ND is keeping an eye on
Polish television as the author of this so-called newsletter claims to have
ancestors coming from that marvellous country. The largest regional public
broadcaster in Germany, WDR, has signed a co-operation agreement with
Polish pubcaster Telewizja Polska. Dr. Ryszard Miazek, chairman of the
board of TVP, pointed out that TVP was on its way to become an up-to-date
European broadcaster. A digital playout-centre will be inaugurated next
summer, providing facilities to air a five-channel digital package. 
What worries me a bit, though, is that TVP has explicitly announced to
support the new German "events and documentary" channel Phoenix. German
viewers may know by now what these words mean: an "event" is a *live*
transmission of talking heads, mostly domestic politicians. A "documentary"
is a *repeat* of some programming featuring even more talking heads, once
again mostly politicians. 
So, the WDR-TVP agreement may mean that Phoenix viewers may soon get live
coverage from the Polish Sejm. In any case, it will be more exciting than
anything else Phoenix has shown yet.



RUPERTWATCH
by Dr Sarmaz

JSKYB DETAILS STILL UNCLEAR
Softbank executive vice president Ken Miyauchi told the press that details
of the joint broadcasting venture JSkyB have not been decided yet. "The
discussion is still going on," Miyauchi said. There's not much room left
for speculation, however, as he also stated that "there is no possibility
that Softbank would leave the project."
JSkyB, which is expected to start test transmissions later this month, is a
joint venture of Japan's Softbank, Rupert Murdoch's New Corp. and --
possibly -- Sony Corp. as the three firms are still negotiating a capital
participation of the electronics giant.


RUPERT IN CHILWORTH
The Anglo-French company Matra Marconi Space will build a satellite uplink
station in Chilworth, UK -- of course, for Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB. Matra
Marconi was ready to admit that the deal was worth "several million pounds"
(well, I guessed that) but did not give any further details.
The new uplink will be used to get 200 digital channels across to RUPERTSAT
1 a.k.a. ASTRA 2A, to be located somewhere around 28E. The two dishes used
will have diameter of over 8 metres each. 



Copyright (c) 1997 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.

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