XXX, 17.6.97

XXX 97-06-17 - The Secret Service

This confidential service is provided free of charge for personal use. It
may be used and redistributed for non-commercial purposes only, provided
the following notice is attached somewhere on the back: 
(c) Copyright by someone who prefers to stay unnamed

Sat-ND is sponsored by a satellite magazine that prefers to stay unnamed.




*** XXX summer break: June 24 - July 9, 1997 ***


Quite understandably, there have been no firm orders for satellite launches
aboard the newly-developed Ariane 5 rocket from the big players. The new
heavy-lift launch system failed spectacularly on its maiden flight last
year, and a number of delays for the second evaluation flight were not
exactly encouraging potential customers. Reportedly, more modifications
than expected had (and still may have) to be made to the launch vehicle.
So, instead of new-generation heavy-weight communications satellites,
Ariane 5 will initially launch scientific spacecraft. 
Following an earlier contract for the Envisat 1 Earth observation
satellite, the European Space Agency has awarded Arianespace the launch
contract for the XMM (X-ray Multi-Mirror) observatory. Ariane 5 was chosen
because of XMM's size, weight and mission characteristics. Launch will be
from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, during one of two
windows: summer 1999 or the winter of 1999-2000. 
Weighing 3,900 kg (8,580 lb) at lift-off, the XMM satellite is one of the
cornerstones of ESA's Horizon 2000 scientific program, along with the
Rosetta, Soho and First missions. Daimler-Benz Aerospace (DASA) is prime
contractor for XMM, which is being built by Dornier Satellitensysteme. This
space telescope will be placed in a very highly-inclined elliptical orbit,
and carry out spectroscopic measurements of X-ray sources in the universe. 
The Envisat 1 multimission polar platform (PPF) will ensure continuity with
current ERS Earth observation missions, but with enhanced terrestrial and
maritime surveillance capabilities. Built by Matra Marconi Space in
Bristol, UK, Envisat 1 will weigh approximately 10,000 kg (22,000 lb) at
launch. Scheduled for launch by the end of 1999, Envisat 1 will be placed
in a sun-synchronous polar orbit at an altitude of 800 km (500 miles). 

DBS Industries, Inc. announced today that E-SAT, Inc., owned jointly by
EchoStar Communications Corporation of Englewood, CO and DBS Industries,
intends to enter into a launch services contract with EUROCKOT Launch
Services GmbH of Bremen, Germany to launch E-SAT's constellation of six low
earth orbit (LEO) satellites. E-SAT executed a Launch Reservation Agreement
in March 1997 [it took them quite a while to write that press release,
didn't it?] with EUROCKOT to secure launch opportunities beginning in the
fourth quarter of 1998.
The E-SAT constellation will make its capacity available for a number of
telecommunications services and, through DBS Industries' wholly owned
subsidiary Global Energy Metering Service, Inc. (GEMS), will initially
provide automated meter reading and data messaging services to the electric
and natural gas utility industries. GEMS' innovative utilisation of LEO
satellite technology will address rural and hard-to-access metering
applications, thereby significantly reducing a utility's costs to collect
and process energy data. 
EUROCKOT will furnish two launches scheduled approximately six months apart
with the first launch scheduled during the fourth quarter of 1998. The
commercial launch vehicle designated Rokot, yet another converted Russian
military missile, is a manoeuvrable three-stage rocket. Each launch will
insert three satellites into its desired sun-synchronous orbit. 
E-SAT is awaiting final licensing approval, expected during this summer,
from the Federal Communications Commission for its LEO satellite
EUROCKOT is a joint venture between Daimler-Benz Aerospace of Germany and
Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre of Russia with its
headquarters located in Bremen [believe it or not.] Launches will take
place at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome located in northern Russia. 

The U.S. defence and aerospace group Lockheed Martin has ordered no less
than 101 Russian rocket engines to be used in the company's new Atlas
launch vehicle. The company said it also hoped the engines would be
selected for the U.S. government's expendable rocket programme. Those
Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV) series will be used for
government and commercial payloads from 2001. It is hoped that they cut the
cost of launching satellites by 80 percent. 
A joint venture between Russia's NPO Energomash and U.S. engines maker
Pratt & Whitney will co-produce the RD-180 engines in Khimsky, Russia,
under an exclusive contract for Lockheed. The Atlas rocket is, as the
Russian Proton, marketed by Lockeed's International Launch Services (ILS).


Maybe the idea behind Teledesic, the multi-satellite based "Internet in the
sky" wasn't that bad after all. Other companies may copy it, much to
Teledesic's dismay, as the Wall Street Journal reported. Motorola, already
involved in the LEO business through the Iridium consortium, is planning to
launch a satellite network by the name of Celestri that would deliver
high-speed data and video to businesses, broadcasters and
telecommunications companies. Estimated at US$12.9 billion, it's almost 50
percent more expensive than Teledesic (US$9 billion.) The Journal said that
Motorola's plans were disclosed in documents filed with federal regulators.

Motorola officials were trying to play the whole thing down by delivering
well-known lines such as "There's a lot of room in the satellite business."
Teledesic's President Russell Daggett does not agree: "This is about
Motorola trying to wreck Teledesic because they hate the idea of Boeing
competing as a satellite provider," Daggett said. "This is about monopoly
profits for Motorola producing satellites."
Motorola's move comes indeed only a few weeks after the company lost out to
Boeing in bidding to build the 288-satellite Teledesic network. Even after
the Boeing deal, Teledesic was prepared to give Motorola major contracts
for portions of its satellites' payload. Teledesic's Chief Executive David
Twyver made it clear that this was no longer the case.


BT Broadcast Services, which claims to be Europe's leading provider of
transmission services, and its U.S. take-over target MCI Telecommunications
today announced they would be providing a suite of new video services
targeted to U.S. television broadcasters and media companies. The companies
plan to offer competitive coast-to-coast terrestrial and satellite
transmission services within the U.S., as well as providing new routes for
bringing in global programming from Europe and the rest of the world. 
The new alliance builds upon Broadcast Services' existing European teleport
facilities in London, Paris, Brussels, Cologne and Moscow as well as MCI's
four U.S. sites to provide customers with global reach. 
BT Broadcast Services is a US$300 million division of British
Telecommunications plc that claims to have an aggressive investment record
in what they call future technology and comprehensive transmission
infrastructure. The company has worked extensively with broadcasters to
help them realize [realize, huh? How British are you anyway, BT? Shouldn't
that be "realise"?] the benefits [Ha!!] of digital technology, It currently
uplinks 90 digital channels from the UK. 
[Ceterum censeo... The only benefit of digital uplinks is that they're
cheaper. They certainly do not offer better picture quality. Quite on the
contrary. Depending on technical parameters, they may even offer a severely
degraded picture. Anyone who's had the misfortune of watching the
transmission of last weekend's F1 racing from Montreal on Germany's RTL
knows what I'm talking about. Fuzzy, grainy pictures that sometimes even
resembled pixel graphics produced on some prehistoric computer such as a
Sinclair, an Amstrad or a Commodore. If there was any picture at all, that
is. I don't know who was in charge for that digital satellite link, but it
was simply a disaster. A digital disaster. That just wouldn't have happened
with an analogue link.]
In Europe, Broadcast Services already works with the U.S. news networks and
cable broadcasters including MTV, NBC, HBO and Nickelodeon. BT transmits,
on behalf of U.S. broadcasters, both permanent services and contribution
services providing coverage of major news and sporting events such as the
Wimbledon Tennis Championships and live transmission of the '96 Atlanta
Olympics to the UK for the BBC.  [That was last year, if my calendar isn't
playing tricks on me. In case that was a digital link, I wonder whether any
pictures did arrive in the UK?]


As reported earlier, Arianespace has had some problems with finding a
chairman that would lead the European yet French-dominated consortium into
the next century. The French government holds, in effect, a 55-percent
stake in the company. German companies hold 18 percent of Arianespace,
Italian ones eight percent. The rest is owned by companies in nine other
countries, mostly in the European Union. 
France so far has favoured Jean-Marie Luton, head of the European Space
Agency while the current Arianespace chairman Charles Bigot backed his
deputy, Francis Avanzis. The French government has changed following the
recent general elections, so everything seems to be up in the air again.
[Unlike Ariane 5. Sorry, just couldn't resist.] Arianespace stated that
"The recently formed French government has asked to be briefed on all
important decisions to be taken in all areas." As a consequence,
Arianespace has adjourned the general meeting that was to take place
yesterday (Monday.) The new date for the general meeting, which will
probably also see the appointment of a new president, is now scheduled for
June 30. The company even cancelled its annual press conference that was
due by now. 
Meanwhile, I sense an enormous tide of laughter coming in from across the
Atlantic Ocean; probably from U.S. launch providers which, in this case,
unfortunately are just too right should they think that Europeans in
general and Frenchmen in particular can act like idiots, too. To put it
less drastic: A space industry that heavily depends on government subsidies
runs into difficulties once the government changes. I'm not saying, of
course, that U.S. launch service providers do not depend on (open or
concealed) state subsidies. They do, but for some strange kind of reason,
government changes do not affect their activities too much. So there
definitely is something Europe should learn from the U.S.  


Another short-wave radio may bite the dust as Monitor Radio, a news service
operated by the Christian Science Church, so far has found no buyer. The
planned sale to World Times reportedly is off because many of the 200
public radio stations in the U.S. that so far carried Monitor Radio
broadcasts have meanwhile entered into different commitments. In effect,
Monitor Radio will stop broadcasts on June 27. Some 70 staff in the
station's headquarters will be sacked as well as other workers and
freelancers in several bureaux. 
Monitor Radio began broadcasting in 1984 and was put up for sale in April
by the church. For the last few remaining days, you can listen to the
station's broadcasts on the WWW by pointing your browser at


* DiviCom Inc, a leading provider of digital video solutions for satellite
and terrestrial networks, announced that Distribuidora de Television
Digital (DTS) -- an organisation headed by Telefonica of Spain, with
Television Espanola (Spanish TV), and the Mexican company Televisa -- has
selected DiviCom's compression system for the country's
government-supported Digital TV Platform. The encoding system employs
sophisticated pre-processing, noise reduction, encoding algorithms, and
statistical multiplexing to fit more than 100 channels of high-quality
digital video, audio, and data onto a single satellite. [HISPASAT, I

* Rupert Murdoch's News Corp Ltd will receive A$100 million in compensation
from its pay-television partner Telstra Corporation as part of a proposal
to limit the cable rollout of their Foxtel partnership to three million
homes, the Australian Financial Review newspaper reported. It's unclear,
though, why the reach should be limited. The partners had planned for the
cable rollout to pass four million homes, but only two million have been
achieved to date. 
The deal would also involve state-owned Telstra providing additional cash
to bolster the balance sheet of the Foxtel pay-TV venture. As reported
earlier, there are negotiations between all three Australian pay-TV
providers about a merger. According to the paper, at least Foxtel and
satellite pay-TV operator Australis Media Ltd might merge, with Kerry
Packer's Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd playing a key role in brokering
the talks. Mr Packer is, as you may know, Mr Murdoch's local rival. 

* Canadian distillers Seagram and Viacom have been unable to work out a
dissolution of their partnership in USA Networks and will submit separate
plans to a Delaware court, the Wall Street Journal reported. Viacom's
launch of TV Land was the reason for the lawsuit. Seagram, owner of MCA,
said that TV Land violated their partnership contract on USA Networks
because it was a competing channel. Both companies were in turn ordered to
think of a way to get out of this mess but apparently haven't achieved to
do so. Seagram and Viacom told the judge that they would comment on the
other's plan by July 11.

FEEDBACK: Sat-ND, 13.6.97

There's an entry for the mystery launch competition. Arianespace had
announced that a company which preferred to stay unnamed had booked two
satellite launches. I asked you for (preferably absurd) suggestions. No
wonder that the person who sent the following [which admittedly is pretty
absurd] prefers to stay unnamed, too ;-)
"My guess as to the secret launches are 2 birds that are eventually going
to be built the Philippines Agila Satellite Co. (PASI) which lost its name,
lost its slot, may get back its slot and who know, may get back its name --
you can understand why they'd want to keep it quiet. The runner-up for the
name Agila [The Eagle] will probably have to use the Philippine translation
for 'giant fruit bat'."

Vittorio Ripa di Meana points out that Majordomo went on strike on a very
special day. "Friday 13th? I'm not superstitious: it brings bad luck!"
Initially, I thought "what a nonsense" because I actually sent Friday's
Sat-ND early Saturday morning local time. I then realised, however, that
this dull, green-eyed Majordomo monster lives somewhere on a computer in
the USA where it was still Friday 13 when my message arrived there. So,
Vittorio, you may have a point there.

FEEDBACK: Sat-ND, 16.6.97

David de Jong supplied the following correction regarding Zomer TV's
schedule: "Transmission in analogue will only be available from 21:00 till
00:00 hrs CET. The digital transmissions will be available from 19:00 hrs
till 00:00 CET. Digital will be unencrypted and free available to every
owner of a digital box without a smart card." To whom it may concern.

by Dr Sarmaz

British Pay-TV de-facto monopolist BSkyB will lose its most prominent
figure. Chief executive Sam Chisholm, 57, said today he was stepping down
on health grounds. The New Zealander will give up his job at the end of the
year and be replaced by Mark Booth, a 40-year-old American who has so far
been engaged with JSkyB, another part of Rupert Murdoch's global television
Booth joined JSkyB less than six months ago. He had headed News Corp's
Foxtel Australian pay TV joint venture since November 1994 and earlier
organised the European launch of music channel MTV. [What European launch?
The channel is encrypted now. That was rather a shutdown than a launch.] 
"I have the highest regard for Mark Booth. BSkyB is an amazing company and
Mark Booth will continue the company's success," Mr Murdoch said.
Back to Mr Chisholm and his health. "It is no secret that I am an asthma
sufferer and my doctors have advised me that I should not take on the next
stage of BSkyB's development," said Chisholm, who will remain a director of
BSkyB. [So it's probably dangerous to subscribe to digital pay-TV if you
suffer from hayfever.]
"Sam Chisholm is unquestionably one of the best executives I have ever
worked with. I'm really sorry he has to step down and I'm very glad he is
staying on the board of BSkyB," Mr Murdoch said. 
David Chance, Chisholm's deputy, had been regarded as a likely successor
for the job. A company spokesman said Chance had not applied for the job
and would continue in his current role. 

Copyright (c) 1997 by The Mystery Man. All rights reserved.

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