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Sat-ND, 23.4.97




Sat-ND 97-04-23 - Satellite and Media News

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TODAY'S HEADLINES:

LAUNCHES
* INDONESIA SELECTS ARIANE
* RUSSIAN LAUNCH BUREAUCRACY, PART II
* RETURN TO SENDER
* NO GO FOR GOES K?
* PEGASUS CARRIES ASHTRONAUTS...
* ...AND MINISAT
SCIENCE
* SHOCK THE MONKEY
BUSINESS
* TIME WARNER LOST IN FRANCE?
* INTELSAT TO GO (PARTLY) COMMERCIAL
CHANNELS
* RADIO AUSTRALIA SURVIVES
* GET WELL SOON
* MONITOR RADIO UP FOR SALE
* RTL APPLIES FOR HUNGARIAN TV LICENSE
DIGITAL
* CONSUMER-FRIENDLY DIGITAL TV
* PACE TO OFFER WEBTV BOX
* THE BIG SWITCH
* NEW RESEARCH ON DIGITAL BSE
RUPERTWATCH
* NO SPOTBEAMS FOR RUPERT?
* COME TALK TO ME

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Editorial Note

Just this: Here we go again!



LAUNCHES

INDONESIA SELECTS ARIANE
Arianespace and Indonesia have signed a contract to launch the country's
next national satellite, TELKOM 1, in late 1998 or early 1999. Built by
Lockheed Martin Telecommunications of Sunnyvale, USA, TELKOM 1 will weigh
nearly 2,500 kg at lift-off. It is equipped with 32 C-band transponders.
(This number is taken from the Arianespace press release while other
sources claim the satellite has even 36 transponders on board.) It will
in any case enable P.T. Telekomunikasi Indonesia to offer voice and data
telecommunications services for more than 15 years.
Indonesia became one of the first countries to deploy a satellite system
when the first spacecraft was launched in 1976, thus creating a
high-performance telecommunications network to serve the thousands of
islands of the Indonesian archipelago. 
TELKOM 1 will replace one of the existing PALAPA satellites. Arianespace
launched Indonesia's PALAPA C2 satellite in May 1996 and will launch the
country's INDOSTAR satellite later this year.


RUSSIAN LAUNCH BUREAUCRACY, PART II
FAISAT 2V, an experimental U.S. satellite that should have been launched
on April 17 aboard a Russian Kosmos 3M rocket, has to wait until the
second quarter of 1997 to get a lift. As reported, the Russian Military
Space Forces refused to carry the satellite piggy-back on a KOSMOS
satellite because the necessary documents weren't supplied in time. The
U.S. company FAI now blamed the Omsk-based Poloyot production
amalgamation, which took part in the development of FAISAT, not to have
supplied the very papers in question in due time. 
Set aside the fact that FAI expects losses of "hundreds of thousands" of
U.S. dollars from the delay, nothing else will change. The company
operates on the basis of trust, and therefore it does not intend to lay
financial claims to the Russian side, FAI's CEO told Itar-Tass. FAI's
26-satellite system, which will operate in low-Earth orbit, is still
expected to become operational in 2000. The Kosmos 3M launcher will be
used to put several FAI satellites into orbit at a time.


RETURN TO SENDER
The controversial Soyuz-U rocket made its way back into the headlines on
Tuesday when the launch of a Russian KOSMOS satellite had to be put off.
As the rocket manufacturer, the Progress plant in Samara, has no spare
rockets left, the satellite will have to wait at least another month.
Indeed, the faulty rocket will be sent back to Samara to have it examined
and repaired there.
Called the "workhorse of Russian space research," the Soyuz-U is not only
used for satellite launches but also for transporting cosmonauts and
cargo spacecraft to the Mir orbital complex. In 1996, two satellites were
lost during Soyuz-U launch attempts. Several other launches were delayed
owing to problems with the rocket.


NO GO FOR GOES K?
The latest in the GOES series of weather satellites was to be launched
tomorrow from Cape Canaveral. At time of writing, it looked as though the
launch would be delayed by 24 hours owing to adverse weather conditions.
GOES K, as the satellite is called right now, will become GOES 10 once it
has arrived in its geostationary orbit. It's still unclear on what
position it will finally end up as both its predecessors, GOES 8 and 9,
have experienced technical problems. GOES 10 will act as an in-orbit
reserve, ready to replace either of them.
Weather forecasters rely on the GOES satellites to give warnings of
thunderstorms, winter storms, flash floods and other severe weather. The
satellites also provide general data for short-term weather forecasts as
well as the pictures U.S. viewers get to see on TV weather reports.


PEGASUS CARRIES ASHTRONAUTS...
Okay, it was more or less the first launch of a satellite from Western
Europe. Mainstream media all around the world couldn't have cared less as
it wasn't just a Spanish satellite appropriately called MINISAT that was
put into orbit. It was accompanied by some very special space junk,
namely what was left of some 24 (probably U.S. American) space
aficionados after they had died.
The most prominent passengers of this space flight (or rather, what was
left of them) were LSD guru Timothy Leary and the creator of Star Trek,
Gene Roddenberry. The other, er, passengers ranged from a Nazi rocket
scientist, who became a good guy later because he worked for the U.S.
like almost all those Nazi rocket scientists, to a boy who loved the
stars but died at the age of 5.
The ashtronauts' incinerated remainders (or rather, just portions of
them) were contained in "lipstick-sized" capsules. They were released
into a low-Earth orbit, probably creating 24 more pieces of dangerous
space junk that may endanger satellites and maybe even manned space
missions. Cui bono?
Well, Orbital Sciences -- the company that launches the Pegasus rockets
-- has at least another revenue source. If you have somebody you would
like to shoot up there, all you have to do is pay US4,800 and send 0.2
ounces (5.6 grams) of his or her ashes to the company. Not by rocket, of
course, regular snail mail will do. Reportedly, the company has received
thousands of inquiries. 


...AND MINISAT
Apart from that, it was the first time a satellite has been launched into
orbit in an operation that originated and was controlled from Western
Europe. The Pegasus rocket was launched from a Lockheed L-1011 jetliner
36,000 ft. (12 kilometres) over the Canary Islands, located in the
Atlantic off North Africa. [As this is a height also used by ordinary
passenger planes, tourists may have a new attraction to look out for.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We're just about to
be taken over by a Pegasus rocket, which you can see at the left-hand
side..."]
MINISAT is a 195 kilogram, Spanish-built satellite designed to perform
several scientific missions, including the study of background radiation
in the extreme ultraviolet range, the behaviour of liquid bridges [still,
nobody has told me what liquid bridges are -- Ed.] in microgravity
conditions and the investigation of low-energy gamma radiation.
David W. Thompson, Orbital's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer said
that "Orbital's launch team is now setting its sights on the next Pegasus
mission, a planned June launch of the Orbital-built OrbView-2/SeaStar
satellite."



SCIENCE

SHOCK THE MONKEY*
Many Sat-ND readers will remember the tragic death of Multik, a rhesus
monkey that survived a strenuous two-week space flight in a space capsule
called Bion 11 but not the Russian doctors that examined the poor animal
once it had returned to Earth (Sat-ND, 9.1.97.) It died of an heart
attack.
The U.S. space agency NASA said it would not participate in a similar
mission that is scheduled for next year. "NASA has determined that this
risk is unacceptable and is therefore discontinuing its participation in
the primate experiments on Bion 12."
So, will NASA drop out of the Bion project that is finally supposed to
supply recommendations for human cosmo- and astronauts? Not at all.
Please note that all this fuss is about "primate experiments." A story
carried by the Russian news agency Itar-Tass may shed some light on the
issue. Yevgeny Ilyin, Deputy Director of the "Institute of Medical and
Biological Problems" [that's how it translates to English, I'm afraid,]
said that Russia and the United States will continue co-operation in
studying the functioning of live organisms aboard artificial Earth
satellites. However, monkeys will probably be replaced by other animals
such as white laboratory rats. "Probably, this accident and the 'greens'
movement influenced NASA, and it suggested that monkeys be replaced by
rats," Ilyin said.
--
*) Borrowed from a Peter Gabriel song



BUSINESS

TIME WARNER LOST IN FRANCE?
Time Warner, the world's largest media company, reportedly has an option
to buy 10 percent of Canalsatellite, the satellite pay TV operation of
France's pay-TV giant Canal+. A possible deal might be related to the
distribution of Warner Bros. TV channel within the package as well as
with other activities.
Those 10 percent would be those currently owned by Generale des Eaux,
which is trying to rationalise its communications and broadcasting
interests. Within these efforts, Generale des Eaux is in talks with Time
Warner over the sale of its loss-making cable television networks unit,
Compagnie Generale de Videocommunication.


INTELSAT TO GO (PARTLY) COMMERCIAL
The 21st meeting of the INTELSAT Assembly of Parties made significant
progress in the restructuring of the INTELSAT Organisation and
established a new Working Party to continue the forward momentum.
Specifically, the Assembly affirmed its intention to authorise the
establishment of a commercial affiliate (INC) and decided to select The
Netherlands as its jurisdiction of incorporation.
The Assembly also affirmed its intention to transfer to INC between three
and six satellites as well as the INTELSAT K-TV satellite currently under
procurement for deployment at the 95E location, provided specific
outstanding issues are resolved.
The Assembly also decided to establish a new Working Party to study, in
co-operation with the Board of Governors, specific outstanding issues
needing further development and/or resolution prior to the establishment
of INC. The Assembly decided that this new Working Party must complete
its work and offer final restructuring recommendations in time for
consideration by an Extraordinary Assembly of Parties to be held in early
1998 in Brazil.



CHANNELS

RADIO AUSTRALIA SURVIVES
Radio Australia (RA,) the country's international radio service that
reaches 18 million listeners around the world, will stay on air --
somehow. Instead of abolishing the short-wave and satellite based service
completely as suggested by a recent inquiry, the Australian government
decided to cut its funding by two thirds, leaving just about A$7 million
(US$5.4 million) for operations (probably a world record in miserliness.)
This means, of course, that several language services will have to be
axed, including those in Cantonese, French, Khmer, Mandarin, Thai and
Vietnamese, Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio reported.
Local reports point out that the conservative Liberal-National government
was breaking an election commitment to maintain the 60-year-old
international service. 
Government sources would not confirm the decision. "We do not have formal
advice of the cabinet decision as yet but it would appear we will retain
our English service, our coverage of the Pacific through short-wave and
our Tok Pisin service to Papua New Guinea," RA general manager Derek
White said.
"However, it would be extremely disappointing if we have to end our
services to Asia in the languages in which we reach the greatest part of
our audience and which play an important part in building an image of
Australia in the region," he added.


GET WELL SOON
We all know that the U.S. of A. are truly a great country. "There are
more than 88 million Americans who suffer from or are affected by
alcoholism, substance abuse, gambling, eating disorders, depressions and
underlying causes such as child abuse and sexual abuse. One out of every
four American families are affected by alcohol and substance abuse."
That's at least how Bill Moses sees it, the president and chief executive
officer of a new cable channel called Recovery Network. 
The channel, which was launched today, is devoted entirely to
substance-abuse recovery and prevention, and to helping the millions(!)
of people affected by behavioural and mental-health problems. 
Airing in the morning and at night, programming will be delivered to
cable systems via satellite and can be carried on any channel the
operator has available, including local origination. Recovery Network
will initially air in 50 markets throughout the United States.
http://www.recoverynet.com/


MONITOR RADIO UP FOR SALE
Short-wave listeners all over the world may know Christian Science
Monitor Radio as an interesting news and current affairs channel that
broadcasts religious programmes only over the weekend. (That was at least
the impression I got when listening to the short-wave service quite a few
years ago.) Indeed, the Boston-based channel is the U.S.' No. 2
non-profit news broadcaster behind National Public Radio, reaching a
1.1-million audience over 200 radio stations. 
Now, it's all up for grabs-the news channel as well as the short-wave
transmitters, reports Associated Press. Monitor Radio will, with its 62
employees, be sold by July while the church's Herald Broadcasting
Syndicate is also looking to lease or sell its short-wave radio stations
WSHB in Cypress Creek, South Carolina (USA) and KHBI on the Pacific Rim
island of Saipan.
Christian Science Monitor editor David Cook said in a statement that the
church aims "to remain a constructive force in radio news" and is
"exploring new programming opportunities."


RTL APPLIES FOR HUNGARIAN TV LICENSE
There are probably quite a few companies that would like to get hold of a
national terrestrial TV license in Hungary. And maybe Hungarians will
sooner of later even have the misfortune of being subjected to the
umpteenth RTL channel in Europe.
A consortium comprising CLT-UFA, MATAV, Pearson plc. and Raiffeisen
Unicbank is applying for the licence through a joint venture company,
M-RTL. If the licence is awarded to M-RTL, the new channel will broadcast
as RTL KLUB under an exclusive licence from CLT-UFA.
The consortium is led by CLT-UFA (Luxembourg/Germany) which has a 49 per
cent interest in the venture. MATAV, the dominant Hungarian telecom's
operator, has 25 per cent of the new company and announced to provide
solid financial support and knowledge of the Hungarian market to the
venture.
UK-based Pearson, which holds a 20 per cent stake, has announced to will
establish a new Hungarian production company to produce for the channel.
Raiffeisen Unicbank, a long-established Hungarian bank with substantial
financial resources, owns the remaining 6 per cent of the company.



DIGITAL

CONSUMER-FRIENDLY DIGITAL TV
Spain seems to be the first European country that seems to be determined
to save its people from the decoder wars that so far have hampered the
distribution in other countries. The country's parliament passed a law
that requires Spanish digital TV operators to use a multicrypt system
supplied by state-owned telecommunications operator Telefonica. That is,
if a compatibility agreement concerning the country's competing decoding
systems isn't reached within two months. Fair enough.


PACE TO OFFER WEBTV BOX
It hasn't exactly been a success in the United States so far, and there's
no reason why WebTV should do any better in Europe. Nonetheless, Pace
Micro Technology of the UK has signed an agreement to license the WebTV
reference design technology for enabling Internet services to be
delivered over television sets.
Pace plans to offer its products in time for the Christmas shopping
season although it seems there will only be "trial service" of WebTV
available at that time.
WebTV will, as reported, become part of the Microsoft empire. The
software giant wants to acquire WebTV in a deal worth about U$425 million
in stock and cash.


THE BIG SWITCH
Primestar, the U.S.' largest provider of minidish satellite television,
announced that its "Big Switch" operation was successful. Instantaneously
upgrading Primestar's 1.8 million customers from 95 channels to 160, the
channel line-up was at the same time re-organised into easy-to-find
programming categories for greater ease of use. The company said it would
intensify competition in the DBS industry and sharpen its competitive
edge. 
"It was a tremendous feeling to see months of planning and hard work by
hundreds of people come to fruition in a matter of minutes," said Jim
Gray, Primestar Chairman and CEO. "With this enormous upgrade, we've made
it very easy for consumers to choose Primestar over all other DBS
providers." 
And there's a Web site, too, of course. It was created as a dynamic sales
tool, working in tandem with other company communications to underscore
the benefits of Primestar's complete satellite service.
Launched in 1994 as America's first digital TV entertainment service,
Primestar is the direct broadcast satellite (DBS) provider that doesn't
require the purchase of expensive equipment, and so far the only one that
has 160 channels lined up by programming category. 


NEW RESEARCH ON DIGITAL BSE
[Frank Kearney, a long-time reader of Sat-ND, sent in this report from
Ireland. Thanks Frank, and what more can I say than "Moo?" -- Ed.]
Not much happening at this side of Europe, it looks like 'digital TV...
electronic mad cows disease' is transferable to humans. Nokia have
recently released their new UK Digital receiver, the 9200s. The press
release stated among other things that the receiver would receive the
'clear channels like BBC World and MBC on EUTELSAT at 13 east'. The BBC
is encrypted, and MBC does not even transmit in MPEG from this satellite,
so either the receiver is truly excellent, or someone a Nokia has not got
a clue or most likely... 'electronic mad cows disease'. 
A few months back the state TV company here upped the TV license by just
10 pounds to fund a new Irish language TV station, which was to be youth
orientated and promote the language with them. So far it has been a real
disaster, its program line up makes 'Phoenix' [get all the exciting
speeches of the German president there! -- Ed.] look like an action
station and it closes down at 10.30 pm, expect that all the little boys
and girls should be gone to bed then. It has made efforts to improve
things, lately it relays the QVC channel during off peak times and now it
looks as though a Catholic religious station is to share the UHF
frequency. [Now what kind of improvement is that?! -- Ed.]



RUPERTWATCH
by Dr Sarmaz

NO SPOTBEAMS FOR RUPERT?
It seems as though Rupert Murdoch has lost his battle with U.S. lawmakers
on his "spotbeaming" plans. In order to allow his digital TV service Sky
to carry local channels, the Satellite Home Viewers Act would have to be
changed. While competing with conventional cable networks, Sky obviously
does not want to pay the channels it carries. In addition, Mr Murdoch
wants his service to be exempted from must-carry rules. Although Mr
Murdoch has personally visited senior lawmakers over the last few weeks,
it seems that most have resisted his lobbying efforts.
Mr Murdoch as now quoted as saying he'd drop his efforts to introduce
"spotbeaming" exemptions to the bill shouldn't he manage to get the
support of at least 60 U.S. senators. 


COME TALK TO ME*
It's one of these cases when Rupert Murdoch talks to himself. BSkyB
reportedly is talking with 20th Century Fox about creating a production
division to be named BSkyB Films. Both companies are, if not completely
owned by Mr Murdoch's News Corp., at least dominated by him. Observers
noted that the plan makes sense as BSkyB plans to produce more original
programming and may, to that purpose, even build a studio in the U.K.
----
*) This line was borrowed from a Peter Gabriel song, too



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

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