Sat-ND, 28.07.97

Sat-ND, 28.07.97 -- Summary of last week's news, Part I
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Today's Headlines

Another GPS up
Chinese launch problems (sort of)
No fireworks in Xichang
Telesat to Consult on Arabsat Direct Broadcast Satellite.
552 hours of digital radio every day
China to explore the oceans
Cheaper satellites from Japan
Kontemplating the Ka-band
Canadians play golf
No mercy
AMSC lawsuit alive
Norsat fights Canadian ban of U.S. DBS reception
Iridium licensed in Canada
More digital TV in Japan
Echostar stay on their own...
...and announce:
Digital TV should be cheaper
European floods on the Internet
Spanish news online

Editorial note

Yes, I'm still alive. Don't ask me what I've been doing over the past few days. Here's the first part of a summary covering last week's news. It is far from being complete, though. There will be some second part but I'm afraid I can't tell you when.

I apologise to everybody who wrote in with their inquiries which so far I have not been able to answer.

I do not at all apologise to those morons sending me "unsubscribe" messages. Read the f***ing notes that conclude every single issue of this udderly redundant publication. Moooo!


Another GPS up

A Delta II rocket has launched the first of a new generation of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites for the U.S. Air Force.
The payload, a NAVSTAR GPS Block IIR satellite, is the first of a completely new GPS. Among its advantages is an ability to be launched into any of the required orbits on any day of the year with 60-day advanced scheduling. The GPS Block IIR has an estimated life span of 10 years and is equipped with advanced on-board computers to allow for in-flight software modifications.
GPS satellites form a space-based, world-wide radio navigation system with both military and commercial applications. GPS signals are accurate enough to allow velocity measurements to within a fraction of a mile per hour, location positioning to within a few feet and time calculations to within one millionth of a second.
Many uses for the GPS have developed, ranging from highly accurate mapping and geological terrain surveys to surface navigation for cars, trucks and boats.
The McDonnell Douglas built Delta II successfully launched all other 24 original GPS and three back-up satellites. McDonnell Douglas will launch GPS spacecraft for the Air Force as needed through the year 2002.

Chinese launch problems (sort of)

China Aerospace Industry Co has reportedly delayed the launch of Apstar 2R. Industry sources said the delay comes after questions over control of the spacecraft after its launch.
"The launch will not be in August," a Hong Kong-based industry source said. "The new target window is September 5." The reason: "There was a scheduling conflict with the contractor who controls the satellite between when the rocket dispenses it and its arrival in its final orbit."
Ironically, the launch service provider China Aerospace Industry Co is a state-owned company while APT Satellite Holdings is not only Hong-Hong based but also controlled by Beijing.
APT dismissed the report, however: "The launch date will not be postponed," an APT spokesman said. "It will still be in late August." Officials of China Aerospace had no comment.
Another important launch is not affected: around August 10, the Philippine communications satellite Mabuhay is to be put into orbit by one of China's new generation Long March 3B rockets.

No fireworks in Xichang

China has re-opened its Xichang space centre in Southwest Sichuan to tourists. It had been closed last February in the wake of one of several launch disasters.
However, it is completely untrue that rocket launches will be marketed as an alternative for gigantic fireworks or even as a high-tech alternative to Russian Roulette. Visitors will be able to visit launch pads, though, and watch traditional Chinese festivals.
Among the attractions are bullfighting and horse racing, as well as other events described by organisers as typical of an "ancient slave society." What about modern slave societies, by the way? Just wondering.


Telesat to Consult on Arabsat Direct Broadcast Satellite.

Telesat Canada announced that it has been awarded a multi-million dollar contract to provide engineering consulting services to the Arab Satellite Communications Organization, ARABSAT.
Under the terms of the contract, Telesat will monitor the construction of Arabsat's third generation satellite, Arabsat 3A. This direct broadcast satellite is to be manufactured by Aerospatiale Espace & Defence in Cannes, and by subcontractor Alcatel in Toulouse, France.
"We are very happy to be working with ARABSAT again, and are pleased with their trust in our technical expertise," said Larry Boisvert, president and CEO of Telesat. "Telesat is recognised as a knowledgeable and progressive satellite communications company, and has a world-wide reputation as a competent and independent consultant."
The Arab Satellite Communications Organization was established in 1976 by the member states of the Arab League, with the mandate to serve the information, culture and education sectors of the Arab States through satellite telecommunications.
Telesat is Canada's satellite communications company, providing telecommunications and broadcast distribution services in North America. This year, Telesat celebrates the 25th anniversary of the launch of Anik A1 , the world's first commercial domestic satellite in geostationary orbit.

552 hours of digital radio every day

Bloomberg L.P. and WorldSpace have jointly announced an agreement to broadcast 24-hour news and information on 23 channels beamed from the three satellites on WorldSpace's digital radio satellites.
Bloomberg, which broadcasts in seven languages throughout the world, will feed programs in English, Spanish, French and Italian on the AfriStar satellite; Japanese and English on AsiaStar; and Spanish, Portuguese and English on AmeriStar. Most of the program content will feature audio feeds from Bloomberg Television, utilising a unique format that broadcasts programs in 30-minute cycles, or "wheels," 24 hours a day. [For radio stations, this is by no means unique, by the way.] The service will premiere in the third quarter of 1998, following the June 1998 launch of WorldSpace's first satellite, AfriStar.
"The WorldSpace system will bring Bloomberg news and information to a vast new audience," said Michael Bloomberg, founder and CEO, Bloomberg L.P. "Providing the underserved and emerging regions access to independent, quality journalism is vitally important to their future growth." [Bloomberg "quality journalism"? That's a good one!]

China to explore the oceans

According to an official of the State Oceanography Bureau, China plans to launch its first ocean exploration satellite in the second half of 1999.
The satellite would cover huge areas of the sea, providing real-time data that would benefit the fishing industry and study of ocean resources. It would also allow exploration and study of marine organisms, land forms under shallow water, water temperatures and ocean pollutants. It might be launched with meteorological satellite on the same rocket, but other details had not been decided upon.

Cheaper satellites from Japan

Japan has succeeded in finding ways to cut satellite costs, reports Nikkei news agency.
On example was the Japanese Selene Project which will be launched in 2003. It's not going to transmit any TV channels -- instead, the spacecraft will land on the moon. Plans to use a separate lunar landing vehicle were dropped, resulting in savings of ¥5 billion. About the same amount was saved by simplifying the pre-launch experiments of the attitude and power control systems. In addition, the inertial sensors will be bought overseas. The engineers were able to slash the cost of the Selene satellite from ¥37 billion to ¥27.1 billion.
There were even more savings with ETS (Engineering Test Satellite) 8 where almost a third of the cost was cut. By buying existing designs for the power and propulsion systems and by importing parts, ¥7 billion will be saved. However, only parts that are available from more than one foreign manufacturer will be used in order to reduce the risk. Due for launch in 2002, ETS8 is designed to help develop mobile communication technologies.

Kontemplating the Ka-band

CAI Data Systems, Inc. ("Data Systems"), a majority-owned subsidiary of CAI Wireless Systems, Inc. (CAI), announced that it had filed an application with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to construct, launch and operate a Ka-band satellite in either the 93 or 103 degrees West orbital location.
The application, which is currently pending before the FCC, contemplates a July 1999 launch date for the satellite into the orbital location to be assigned by the FCC if it approves Data Systems' application, and a November 1999 service roll-out.
Data Systems was formed by CAI earlier this year to pursue Ka-band satellite opportunities that could be used in conjunction with CAI's Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Services (MMDS) spectrum in a variety of high speed, high bandwidth services including two-way video, voice and data transmission. At this time, CAI contemplates using Ka-band satellite capacity to actively support MMDS spectrum in the delivery primarily of two-way inter-region data services and non-subscription video services such as video conferencing.
"Although Data Systems is in its preliminary stages, we felt it was important to take advantage of the opportunity, presented by AT&T's withdrawal of its Ka-band satellite application last May, to apply for these orbital positions," said Timothy J. Santora, president of Data Systems. "These are the only two unassigned Ka-band orbital locations capable of providing service to the entire United States at this time."
Data Systems estimates the total cost of constructing and launching the satellite to be approximately US$292.5 million. Because it is a start-up venture, Data Systems has asked the FCC to waive certain financial qualifications otherwise required of satellite applicants and licensees. Data Systems anticipates that the financing for this operation can be arranged if and when the application is approved. There can be no assurance, however, that approval of the satellite application will be granted to Data Systems or that Data Systems will be able to raise the funds necessary to launch and operate a Ka-band satellite if the application is approved.
[Not really the usual "We're the world leader" press release. So, I'd also like to quote their explanation of frequency bands, especially the part about "rain and other atmospheric conditions."]
Ka-band satellite capacity, operating at a frequency range of 27 GHz to 40 GHz, has been receiving more attention from satellite systems operators due to the large amount of bandwidth available. An issue with Ka-band signal has been attenuation of the signal due to rain and other atmospheric conditions. C-band satellite capacity, operating at a frequency range of 4000 MHz to 8000 MHz, is widely used for television programming, and Ku-band satellite capacity, in the 12 GHz to 18 GHz frequency range, is used for direct-to-home television broadcasting, satellite news-gathering and business communications applications.


Canadians play golf

A request for Canadian distribution of The Golf Channel (TGC) by the Canadian Cable Systems Alliance (CCSA) was approved by Canada's broadcast regulator CRTC.
The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) added The Golf Channel to what is known as the "A List" of eligible satellite services, authorising cable companies to distribute The Golf Channel to Canadian golf enthusiasts throughout the country. The CCSA, representing a subscriber base of nearly 900,000 Canadian households sponsored the request for The Golf Channel by actively seeking TGC interest-level input from Canada's nearly 8 million cable households.
Recent research indicates that Canada has the highest golf participation rate in the world, with an incredible 20 percent, or one-in-five Canadians, claiming to play golf. In contrast, the U.S. is reported to have a golf participation rate of 13.5 percent.
The Golf Channel, based in Orlando, Florida launched in the U.S. in January 1995 and is now seen in over 10 million homes there. The network also launched service in Japan and in The Philippines over the past year and is scheduled to enter Taiwan early 1998.

No mercy

Satellite operator Arabsat will not reconsider its ban of France's CFI for violating Islamic views of decency, Arabsat's director general said.
"Arabsat took a final decision to cancel the contract and there will be no return on that," said Ahmad al-Badnah, director general for the Saudi-Arabia based company. French diplomats had earlier tried to smooth over what would be a disaster for France's efforts to reach audiences in the Arab world.
Arabsat stopped transmitting Canal France Internationale (CFI) for showing a pornographic film, an incident that according to CFI officials was an "unacceptable incident which resulted from a technical error."
"We cannot be under the mercy of technical mistakes," Badnah said -- not exactly what one would call a healthy view of the real world.
Meanwhile, CFI officials said the cancellation of the Arabsat contract would cost FF50 million (US$8.3 million) annually in lost advertising revenues and owing to programmes already purchased. A CFI spokeswoman added that "the harm to our public image is beyond all measure." She pointed out that "our programmes and those of CNN were the only non-Arab programmes carried by Arabsat.
"This means France is now out of the picture after years of effort and investment in trying to reach the public in the Arab world."


AMSC lawsuit continues

The AMSC story continues. In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles, a consortium of 14 insurers alleges that communications technology malfunctioned on AMSC 1, which was launched in 1995 by Lockheed Martin Corp.
Spar Aerospace, manufacturer of the communications payload, said it would "vigorously defend" itself against the US$135-million lawsuit. It was first filed last December but the plaintiffs withdrew it to facilitate negotiations with Spar. It seems as though the negotiations had no result.
Spar president Colin Watson said his company has evidence that any damage suffered by AMSC 1 "was the direct result of their own or the subcontractors' actions" in operating the satellite. American Mobile Satellite Corp. uses the satellite to provide mobile voice and data services throughout North America.

Norsat fights Canadian ban of U.S. DBS reception

NII Norsat International Inc. announced that it is appealing the recent ruling of the Federal Court of Canada that the importation and sale of U.S. Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) receiving systems contravenes Canada's Radiocommunication Act. Norsat is pursuing this course after reviewing the written reasons for the June 27 decision.
"We have launched an appeal because we believe this decision, which conflicts with an earlier decision by the Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench, misinterprets the Radiocommunication Act," says Bruce Chapman, Norsat's president and chief executive officer. "The Court has extended what we believe the Government of Canada intended only to be an anti-piracy law, designed to prohibit the theft of subscription television signals, to Canadian consumers who pay for the U.S. subscription programming that they receive. These are two very different situations."
"From the continuing strong demand for U.S. DBS systems, it is clear that Canadians want the ability to access a full range of domestic and international signals. We believe that they would be horrified if they knew that the law was being interpreted as saying that they cannot do so. The actual applicability of this law to those hundreds of thousands of Canadians who pay to watch U.S. DBS television, and the many more who want the ability to freely choose to do so, requires a more final determination, and so it is incumbent upon us to appeal this decision."
NII Norsat International Inc. is a diversified technology company specializing in the design and manufacture of satellite and cable communications equipment for commercial applications, which it sells through its offices in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and China, and through a global network of more than 35 distributors.

Iridium licensed in Canada

Iridium, a multinational project to provide cellular telephone service anywhere in the world by satellites, has received a licence to operate in Canada.
Maurice Rompre, president of Iridium Canada, said the Motorola-led consortium got their go-ahead from Industry Canada. Iridium Canada can now start work on a land-based gateway to receive the space signals. BCE Mobile Communications, BCE Telecom International and Motorola Canada each own one-third of subsidiary Iridium Canada, which so far has spent US$70 million on the project.
Canada is the 13th country to license Iridium, a US$4.7-billion mobile communications project. Iridium is one of four consortia planning satellite-based connections for cellular telephone users who stray out of range, for example in developing countries or remote areas. However, the consortium's strategy has in the meantime shifted to providing satellite-based switchboard services in densely populated areas, i.e. in industrialised countries.
Ed Staiano, Iridium vice-chairman and chief executive, said US$4.5 billion in financing has been lined up, including a share issue of US$240 million. "This is all we require to go into commercial service."
The industry estimates 500 million people will use cellular phones by 2002. 42 million of them would require Iridium-type connections. "For us to be wildly successful we only have to penetrate 10 percent of that market," expects Staiano.


More digital TV in Japan

Television Tokyo Channel 12 Ltd. will set up a planning company to prepare the entry into the digital satellite broadcasting business in 2000, company President Yutaka Ichiki said.
An application will be filed next year with the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications for a license to start satellite broadcasts. After obtaining the license, the company will expand into an operating company with a capital of about ¥20 billion, Ichiki said. Nihon Keizai Shimbun Inc. and Mitsui & Co. will be major investors in the new company.
The service will use the BS-4 broadcasting satellite to be launched around 2000. Most of the channels will be free of charge, mainly targeting a business audience.

Echostar stay on their own...

Echostar published an unprecedented number of press releases on July 25, announcing all kinds of everything. But first things first: here's the background. The company has decided to carry on its own and is no longer looking for a partner with deep pockets.
Yes, EchoStar Communications Corp. will launch its third high-powered satellite EchoStar III on September 25. The satellite will enable EchoStar's DISH Network to double its channel line-up to 300. EchoStar III will include programming complementary to that offered by EchoStar's DISH Network on EchoStar I and EchoStar II, including expanded educational and business television. The programming line-up could [sic!] also include data delivery applications and re-transmission of local channels to select large markets. [Subject to U.S. legislative approval, that is.]
And no, despite and all resulting financial troubles, the DBS operator and receiver manufacturer now says it isn't looking for a partner to bail it out anymore.
According to Charlie Ergen, chairman and chief executive of EchoStar, said a partner is no longer necessary. "We're not actively out there trying to find strategic partners. But that doesn't mean there wouldn't be a partner for us in the future," he was quoted as saying.
Now, EchoStar is trying hard to attract new subscribers. Ergen admitted that it costs US$200 to US$300 to acquire a subscriber, but it pays off over the long term in monthly cash flow.

...and announce:

The 1000 [additional] Receiver. "This new breakthrough unit will be available immediately with a suggested retail price of US$129. When customers purchase the EchoStar 4000 or 5000 systems with the dual output LNBF, they can purchase the EchoStar 1000 permitting different satellite channels to be viewed on multiple televisions simultaneously."
Free Installation: "EchoStar will be cutting the price on the installation of a DISH Network satellite TV system. For a limited time, beginning August 1, 1997, customers who purchase a DISH Network system will have a choice between receiving a free Self Installation Kit or US$100 off a professional installation. EchoStar is limiting the offer to DISH Network systems that are installed and activated between August 1, 1997 and September 30, 1997."
Improved Lease Plan: "The new plan now gives customers the option to lease the award- winning DISH Network EchoStar 4000 digital set top box with the value-packed America's Top 40 programming package, an extended warranty until lease buyout and a professional installation for one low price of US$99 for installation and a US$29.99 monthly payment with proper credit approval. There is a customer buyout option for US$199 after 18 months or US$99 after 36 months.
Signal: "DISH Network will soon carry Signal, the flagship financial information product from Data Broadcasting Corporation. Signal is a real-time quote service that provides data directly from the equity, futures, and options exchanges to a user's PC.
"The real-time data is received through the DISH Network receiver and routed to a user's PC via an RS-232 interface and does not require an Internet connection. The service will be available on the DISH Network in autumn 1997 on a subscription basis directly from DBC."

Digital TV should be cheaper

A new Nielsen/Satellite DIRECT study shows that a near majority of Americans are waiting for a price breakthrough -- and if they get it, they will buy a satellite dish. 40 percent of those asked said they would be "very or somewhat likely" to purchase a dish if the cost drops to US$99. And, one-quarter of those in the study would be "very or somewhat likely" to buy a dish at a US$199 price point.
Satellite DIRECT spokesman Phillip Swann, publisher of the magazine, says "In fact, the growth for satellite households may far exceed recent industry projections. The Nielsen research indicates that more than ten percent of American households are considering purchasing a satellite dish in the next 12 months at today's pricing. And, the lower the price drops, the higher the interest level in acquiring a dish. The number of households 'somewhat or very likely to purchase' a dish at the US$99 price point jumps to 40 percent."
The research study, commissioned and developed by the magazine and fielded by Nielsen Media Research in mid-July, found that 85 percent of Americans are aware of small satellite dishes that bring more than 200 channels into the home. Over 10 percent responded that someone in the household was considering purchasing a dish in the next 12 months. •The likelihood of purchase escalates when pricing options are entered into the equation:
Says Swann: "This study demonstrates the sustained interest in satellite TV. Americans are aware of the product's superiority. It is already possible today to purchase a dish for US$199. When this is clearly communicated to the American public, dish penetration will achieve critical mass and sales will soar."


European floods on the Internet

The "Earth Watching Team" at the European Space Agency's ESRIN centre in Italy has put some significant satellite images on the Internet concerning the recent floods in northern Europe.
They are accessible at the following address: http://pooh.esrin.esa.it:8888/ew/floods.htm
Acquisitions over areas of Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany and Austria from July 12 onwards give an idea of the extent of the catastrophe that has hit a large part of northern Europe these last few weeks. Topographic maps of the areas, merged with the available satellite data, are also accessible.
During emergencies of this kind, it is often difficult to obtain an overall view of the areas hit, especially since weather conditions are usually such as to preclude, for example, aerial observation. The authorities need a quick response in order to identify areas that need immediate assistance. ESA's ERS Earth Observation satellites carry a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) instrument, which is able to collect data independently of weather and light conditions, but it is also possible to acquire data with optical satellites when cloud cover is reasonably light.
Readily processed data and information can be made available to authorities just a few hours after the satellite has flown over the disaster area.
The Earth Watching project was started at the end of 1993 to monitor such emergencies, and is a collaborative effort between Eurimage (ESA's commercial distributor of remote sensing data) and ESRIN, the ESA centre in charge of exploiting Earth Observation data.
Putting remote-sensing data online is part of a promotional activity for the Earth Watching project to make authorities and institutions aware of the potentialities of such data.
ESA is coordinating the provision of data for the Polish and Czech Republic authorities, working with DLR (the German Aerospace Research Establishment) and one of the four ESA Processing and Archiving Centres for ERS data. DLR also maintains a server with recent ERS data covering the flooded areas: http://www.dfd.dlr.de/app/index.html
Holger Zeissler has made me aware of some other, not necessarily satellite-related WWW sites that hinge on the various flood disasters:
http://www.flooding.pl/ [Polish]
http://www.meteofax.de/news/oder/ [German]
To avoid any confusion: should you happen to stumble upon the initials PCK there, it's not me but Polski Czerwony Kzryz, the Polish Red Cross (http://www.pck.org.pl/)

Spanish news online

CBS TeleNoticias, the world's leading pan-regional Spanish-language news network, and StarMedia Network, the most widely-visited online network in Latin America, have reached an agreement to launch CBS TeleNoticias StarMedia, a pan-regional online news channel for Spanish-language news.
CBS TeleNoticias StarMedia will launch in fourth quarter of 1997 and will be available at http://www.cbstelenoticias.starmedia.com/.
Under the terms of the agreement, CBS TeleNoticias will be the exclusive provider of 24-hour Spanish-language news programming for StarMedia Network, which currently offers several community, information and entertainment channels. StarMedia Network's studios will integrate interactive online technologies with the programming and distribute it online.
CBS TeleNoticias StarMedia will have a dedicated staff based in the CBS TeleNoticias offices in Miami, and will call upon the resources of its bureaux in Latin America. The staff will be responsible for setting up the site and creating interactive opportunities for CBS TeleNoticias programming ranging from daily e-mails with CBS TeleNoticias anchors and reporters and live chats with program guests to public opinion polls on current issues and events. CBS TeleNoticias will provide on-air promotions of CBS TeleNoticias StarMedia throughout the day.
Also linked to CBS TeleNoticias StarMedia will be the websites for CBS TeleNoticias programs including EN DIRECTO CON JAIME BAYLY (http://www.jaimebayly.com/), the network's live pan-regional nightly interview program, and AMERICA HABLA (http://www.americahabla.com/), a weekly interview program hosted by Raul Peimbert featuring interviews with heads of states and political leaders.

Copyright 07/97 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.

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