Sat-ND, 18.6.97

Sat-ND 97-06-18 - The GEO-LEO Unification Edition
(Happy Birthday Paul!)

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*** Sat-ND summer break: June 24 - July 9, 1997 ***


Iridium LLC successfully launched seven satellites today on a Proton rocket
from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Satellite separation occurred approximately
88 minutes after lift-off. The seven satellites will undergo in-orbit
testing for two weeks before reaching their final target orbit (420
nautical miles [sorry, too lazy to convert this]). The satellites, each of
them weighing in at 650 kg, will be placed into the second orbital plane of
the IRIDIUM constellation. 
The seven spacecraft are part of a 66-satellite wireless personal
telecommunications network designed to permit any type of telephone
transmission to and from virtually anywhere in the world at any time. The
first five IRIDIUM satellites were successfully launched in early May
aboard a Delta II rocket.
It was the first of three launches scheduled at Khrunichev State Research
and Production Space Centre in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The site was chosen
over four years ago by Motorola, the prime contractor for the IRIDIUM
system. The next launches from Baikonur will be made next September and
early next year, each carrying a further seven Iridium satellites into
With two successful launches, Iridium LLC now has a total of twelve
satellites up. Manufactured by Motorola, each Low Earth Orbit (LEO)
satellite is designed to be functional for approximately five to eight
Built by Motorola's Satellite Communications Group in Chandler, Arizona,
USA, IRIDIUM satellites are currently being produced on an assembly line,
probably a first in the satellite manufacturing industry. Additional
IRIDIUM satellites are in various stages of production to meet the planned
launch schedule, Motorola said in a press release.

The "launch campaign" for the second Ariane-5 flight started two days ago
after the European and the French space agencies, ESA and CNES, had given
green light following the Flight Readiness Review held on June 5 and 6. The
target date for Ariane 502 flight now is the end of September this year.
According to an ESA/CNES press release, this is what is going to happen:
"Over the next few weeks, mechanical, fluid and electrical integration of
the cryogenic main stage, the solid booster stage, the vehicle equipment
bay and the upper stage of the launcher will be proceeding in the Launcher
Integration Building, while preparatory work will be under way in the Final
Assembly Building on the upper composite: the Speltra, the fairing and the
payload made up of two technological instrument platforms, Maqsat H and B
and two satellites: Teamsat (a satellite flying five European technology
experiments and Amsat P3D (an international radio amateur satellite)."
[Yes, that was _one_ sentence. Read it again, and again, and... get
confused. They should get themselves some professional writers. Well, just
in case, my email can be found towards the end of this document ;-))]
"Meanwhile, various tests, flight program functional simulations in
particular, will be continuing in Europe. These various operations are
planned to lead to integration of the upper composite and filling of the
upper stage and the attitude control system with propellant." [I guess it's
quite okay to fill the upper stage with propellant, but the attitude
control system?! If I remember it correctly, that was exactly the part that
didn't work on flight 501. Are they trying to make it drunk or what?]


Loral Space & Communications Ltd. and Alcatel Alsthom of France announced
today that they have formed a strategic partnership to jointly develop,
deploy and operate high-speed global multimedia satellite networks that
will deliver pizzas... no, sorry, high-bandwidth services to businesses and
to consumers. 
The agreement includes cross investments in Loral's geostationary (GEO)
satellite-based CyberStar project (US$1.6 billion, three interconnected[!]
satellites) and Alcatel's low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellite-based SkyBridge
project (US$3.5 billion, 32 satellites initially, maybe another 32 later.) 
Each company will participate in the development of the two projects,
initially committing to invest US$30 million in the other's respective
project. Each project will be managed separately, but the two companies
have agreed to facilitate a co-ordinated approach to the two networks,
including integrated marketing. 
Not really news, just have a look at Sat-ND, 29.3.97. What was (and in my
humble opinion still is) unclear is whether both satellite systems can be
integrated. Geostationary systems are well suited for the delivery of
broadcast and a large variety of asymmetric services (the WWW being a
popular example.) Low-earth-orbit systems, due to their inherent very low
propagation time, are very efficient for the delivery of highly interactive
services. LEO constellations provide global coverage while geostationary
systems are targeted to regional markets. And both need different reception
Both companies expect that by combining the strengths of the two systems,
applications that require real-time interaction and high-bandwidth
capability will now be possible. It will be very interesting to see how
both services can finally be integrated, especially on the consumer side.
Will there be a combined LEO/GEO-reception antenna?
Services will be introduced through leased transponders in early 1998 and
subsequently through dedicated geostationary satellites in 1999 and a
constellation of LEO satellites in 2001. 

Motorola, Inc. is one of the world's leading providers of electronics
equipment, systems, components and services for world-wide markets.
Products include two-way radios, pagers and telepoint systems, cellular
electronics, automotive and industrial electronics, computers, data
communications, and information processing and handling equipment. And
Motorola has now officially confirmed plans to build a satellite network
that will provide good weather... no, good music... wrong again... oh yes,
multimedia, data, voice and video services anywhere in the world. What
According to a federal regulatory filing, Motorola plans to launch some 63
satellites between late 2000 and end-2002. As reported yesterday, the
satellite system will be called Celestri. But as if that wasn't strange
enough, it will be Motorola's third satellite system after the US$5-billion
global voice and paging system IRIDIUM and a planned US$6.1-billion video
system called M-STAR (and Celestri will cost more than both combined:
US$12.9 billion.)
Motorola spokesman Robert Edwards said that the company hopes to begin
providing Celestri service in 2002, meaning satellite launches will have to
begin by early 2001. Some of the technology used in M-Star will reportedly
be embedded in the Celestri system which on the other hand yet seems to be
in a very early, conceptual stage. Motorola has begun the engineering phase
of the project and is in discussion with a number of interested parties
(who prefer to stay unnamed yet anyway) about possible subcontracts under
the project. 
Surprisingly[?], the system will consist of a mix of low-orbit satellites,
which will enable it to perform multimedia transmissions in real time, and
geostationary satellites, capable of delivering regional broadcasts. What a
coincidence! Remember? That's exactly what Loral and Alcatel are trying to
do with their CyberWaySkyBridge thing. 
Wow! I hereby declare this the ultimate, sizzling new satellite trend of
this summer. Just look out for more combo-systems like that.


Mexico will auction most of its satellite assets to U.S. companies next
month in the hope of cashing in US$1 billion. (I suppose that everybody can
bid, but it just makes more sense for U.S. companies in a way.) 75 percent
of Mexico's three geostationary satellites, MORELOS 1 and SOLIDARIDAD 1 and
2 will be up for grabs. However, foreign investment in Mexico's satellite
systems will be limited to 49 percent. 
The auction does not only include the satellites and their respective
ground control stations but also the rights to build and launch a
replacement for MORELOS 2. The government will maintain an initial 25
percent minority stake in the satellites through a new state-owned entity,
Satelites Mexicanos SA.
Interestingly, there's no word yet from Mexican officials on the expected
auction of a DBS license that would allow coverage of the Continental U.S.
from 78 deg. E. Originally, the license was expected to be auctioned during
the second half of 1997.


* Korean Air said it has succeeded in designing and developing the main
structural frame for Korea's ARIRANG 1 satellite, scheduled for launch from
Vandenberg Air Force Base in the United States in July 1999. The
multipurpose satellite's mission will comprise geographic and oceanic
observation, space research and mobile telecommunications experiments, a
Korean newspaper reported. Korean Air, which has developed the main
structural frame for the Mookungwha I and II broadcast satellites, is also
participating in the development of a frame for the Mookungwha III
satellite, scheduled for launch in August 1999.

* MTV Networks Europe said it will begin broadcasting a UK version of its
MTV music service in the UK (what a surprise) and Ireland on July 1. The
channel will feature new British presenters, new shows, new short-segment
material and the first phase of a redeveloped on-air identity. The service
will feature a higher rotation of music videos and an increase in the total
hours of music played. The service will be available in six million cable
and satellite homes in the UK and Ireland.

by Dr Sarmaz

It takes more than a skilled witch [I suspect my she-cat to be one, by the
way] or an artful magician to let a billion U.S. dollars simply vanish
without trace, which is exactly what happened today to Rupert Murdoch's UK
pay-TV venture BSkyB. 700 million, or US$1.1 billion, just disappeared in
the wake of an article in the Financial Times (FT.) Dark work of
enchantment, black magic, or was that capital just fundamentally fed up
with being where it was? But where is it right now, then? Shouldn't it be
on my bank account? Questions! 
The Financial Times anyway reported that the Independent Television
Commission (ITC) had told BSkyB it should drop its equity stake in the
British Digital Broadcasting (BDB) consortium with commercial TV groups
Carlton and Granada which has applied for digital terrestrial television
licences. Should BSkyB prefer not comply with that demand, BDB could thrown
out of the race for terrestrial digital TV licences on competition grounds.

Even though an ITC spokeswoman dismissed the report as "speculation," BSkyB
shares dropped by more than seven percent, wiping out the said amount of
US$1.1 billion within just a few hours. 
News agencies quoted analysts as predicting that BSkyB could [finally!]
loosen its grip on British households and would be forced to scale down its
terrestrial ambitions. The FT report said BSkyB may withdraw as an equity
investor while negotiating a deal to supply [yawn!] sports and movie

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

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