Sat-ND, 8.8.97

Sat-ND, 08.08.97 -- Ooooh... what does this button do?
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Today's Headlines

PAS-6 -- The satellite
PAS-6 --The user
PAS 6 -- The launcher
The digital way
AlphaStar really dead
19th nervous breakdown
Another letter from the lunatic asylum


PAS-6 -- The satellite

PAS-6, the first of three high-powered broadcast satellites built by Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) for PanAmSat Corporation, was successfully launched from Kourou, French Guiana.
The satellite has 10 kilowatts of total on-board power, making it one of the most powerful communications satellites ever launched. PAS-6, Latin America's first satellite designed and used exclusively for DTH services, has an expected service life of 15 years. Satellite, launch and insurance cost some US$225 million.
The satellite operates 36 high-powered transponders in the Ku-band, with a total on-board satellite transmitter power greater than 3600 watts RF. PAS-6 has three downlink beams, allowing it to transmit hundreds of channels of digital programming to small, low-cost satellite dishes located throughout South America.
The design of all the PanAmSat satellites is based on SS/L's flight-proven three-axis, body-stabilized FS-1300 bus, tailored to accommodate the required communication payload. The modular design and construction of the FS-1300 platform supports reliable long-life operation with an integral bipropellant propulsion system to place the satellite on station and provide station-keeping capability.
A three-axis momentum bias system accurately maintains attitude stability on orbit throughout the satellite's life. Deployable solar arrays supplemented with high-energy nickel-hydrogen batteries provide uninterrupted electrical power to the spacecraft.
SS/L will provide long-term mission operations and support for PAS-6 after launch and a brief in-orbit test period, continuing through its entire operational life at a geosynchronous station of 43 degrees West longitude. Orbit raising will be controlled from SS/L's mission control centre in Palo Alto. PAS-6 is expected to be operational in October.
Two additional SS/L-built high-powered satellites, PAS-7 and PAS-8, will expand PanAmSat's coverage of the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean regions and provide the capacity to deliver various broadcast and data transmission services. Both of these satellites are scheduled to be launched in 1998.

PAS-6 --The user

The satellite might as well have been named RupertSat as it will be the primary transmission platform Sky Latin America, the partnership formed by News Corporation, Grupo Televisa, Organizaes Globo and Tele-Communications International, Inc. Sky will use all 36 transponders on PAS-6.
Sky currently is using interim capacity on PAS-3 to provide DTH services in South America. Once operational, PAS-6 will serve as Sky's permanent satellite platform in South America. In addition, Sky will use 12 more transponders on the upcoming PAS-5 Atlantic Ocean Region satellite, which is scheduled for launch on August 22 aboard a Russian Proton rocket. PAS-5, built by Hughes Space and Communications Co., is equipped with 24 C-band and 24 Ku-band transponders and provide coverage of the Americas with access to Europe as well.
By the way: PanAmSat's press releases usually don't explicitly state that the company is in fact a Hughes subsidiary. What's really funny, though, is that Hughes has its own Latin American digital DTH service (cf. "The digital way" below.)

PAS 6 -- The launcher

Flight 98 with PAS-6 on aboard was the 27th consecutive successful launch for an Ariane 4 rocket -- a new record.
It was carried out by an Ariane 44P, the version of the European launcher with four solid-propellant boosters. It used the 69th Ariane 4 out of the total of 96 ordered from the European space industry.
PAS-6 is the tenth satellite entrusted to Arianespace by PanAmSat (five PanAmSat spacecraft for international services and five Galaxy satellites for the U.S. market).
The next launch, Flight 99, is scheduled for September 2. An Ariane 44L launch vehicle will place two European satellites into orbit: Eutelsat's Hot Bird 3, a telecommunications satellite, and Eumetsat's Meteosat 7, a weather satellite.


The digital way

The Spanish digital TV scene remains unsettled. The government-backed group Via Digital said it was in talks with DirecTV which might acquire a significant stake in Via Digital.
There are two rivalling digital TV platforms in Spain: Canal Satelite Digital, a consortium led by Spain's media company Prisa ("El Pais") and backed by France's Canal+, and Via Digital which comprises the country's recently privatised telecommunications giant Telefonica, Spanish public broadcaster RTVE, Mexico's Televisa, independent television stations as well as Spanish newspapers and magazines.
Over the past few months, both projects were quarrelling over two issues: decoders and football [soccer.] The decoder problem was solved by the conservative Spanish government which passed a law requiring decoders to be compatible with every digital platform offered in Spain -- a setback for Canal Satelite which had its service up and running but was suddenly barred from supplying decoders to its subscribers. In effect, both services will now start simultaneously. Via Digital will be offered as from September, and that's probably also the date when Canal Satelite will be able to provide decoders that comply with the law.
The football issue is a bit more delicate. It is widely expected that a service that offers life transmissions of football will have a much better chance of attracting subscribers. Until now, Canal Satelite seemed to have the exclusive rights but that changed recently when Telefonica acquired a 25 percent stake in Antena 3, a commercial broadcaster that -- in conjunction with Prisa -- also holds some football transmission rights.
As reported, Telefonica as a result of this purchase now also holds an indirect 15 percent stake in Canal Satelite as well as access to some football rights. That hurt. It hurt so much that Canal Satelite immediately filed a complaint with the European Union Competition Commission.
Well, it's time I come to the news, I guess. Recently, the companies that have invested in Via Digital announced to reduce their shares and get some new partners in. For example, the Japanese media company Itochu was expected to take up a five percent stake.
Now, suddenly but not totally unexpected, the U.S. General Motors/Hughes/PanAmSat/DirecTV conglomerate appeared on the scene. Not only that DirecTV always had some European plans that at some point even included own satellites; there's also Galaxy Latin America, formed in 1995 by Hughes, Venezuela's Cisneros, Mexico's MVS Multivision and Brazil's Televisao, to offer DirecTV in Latin America -- a mostly Spanish-speaking region. Just imagine those trendy synergy effects and that kind of jazz.

AlphaStar really dead

It seems that some kind of last-minute manoeuvring has kept the bankrupt U.S./Canadian DTH service on air 24 hours longer than expected.
The latest rescuing efforts were to no avail, however: A crawl on the screen informed subscribers that the service would be discontinued today. According to bankruptcy court documents, AlphaStar had US$72 million in assets and US$105 million in liabilities.

19th nervous breakdown

Digital TV in Germany is a never-ending story of big alliances that casually blow themselves up just a few weeks after the have been announced. Will there be another blow?
The largest regional broadcaster in Germany, WDR, has complained about the allies in the very latest German digital accord: "There's no way that three of them stick together, making up the rules," said WDR head Fritz Pleitgen.
The three are, of course, the major media companies Kirch and Bertelsmann and telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom which will operate Beta Research, a formerly Kirch-owned company. Beta Research has developed the software for Nokia's d-box that was so far sold to subscribers of Kirch's DF1 package. (A strange point, by the way: the d-box is available to non-subscribers of DF1 as well, but the software still comes from Kirch, and it's usually uploaded to the box via satellite whether you want it or not.)
Pleitgen indicated that the regional broadcasters of ARD as well as the national public TV broadcaster ZDF reject the d-box that was being pushed by Beta research because its specifications so far have not been made public. Instead, ARD and ZDF favour the simulcrypt standard Open TV which can cope with various conditional access systems.
Ironically, Kirch's supplier Nokia will soon present a multi-CAM box dubbed Mediamaster 9600S very soon. Hold your breath, or buy the next issue of TELE-satellite International which should be out in a week [so God will.] Please accept my sincere apologies for this plugging, I'm really ashamed.
Anyway, Pleitgen hinted that ARD and ZDF would not hesitate to file a complaint with the EU commission should the d-box technology not be made available to others than Kirch, Bertelsmann and Telekom.


Another letter from the lunatic asylum

His therapists are still in serious doubt whether he will ever become a useful member of society again. Nonetheless, they let Grandpa Zheng surf the Internet from time to time. It seems he's now found what he was looking for. Here's his report. [Am I the only one who gets the impression that Zheng is becoming sort of childish?]
Moo! Cow and Chicken finally have their own, unofficial home page on the WWW, set up by van A. Andhyiswara of The Netherlands. Good job, mate! No audio clips yet, but screenshots galore -- unfortunately taken from some experimental Dutch digital TV service (or what does ENECO TEST mean?) What's really bothering me: some screenshots even come with Dutch subtitles. Why on Earth does Cow's favourite plaything, Piles the beaver, become 'Bert, m'n speelgoedbever?' Is 'Bert' a Dutch expression for Haemorrhoids or what?
Now for my other favourite TV programme, and that's Dexter's Laboratory. Just as Cow and Chicken, it's available in Europe on Cartoon Network. The show has a (rather boring) official homepage and, you guessed it, an unofficial one set up by an aficionado. The latter will supply you with loads of pictures, even more audio clips, some videos, and of course with hand-picked Dexter links. A must for all Dexter fans (or Dee Dee haters.) Great!
Official: http://www.tbssuperstation.com/disaster/dexter.htm
Unofficial: http://www.planet.net/vanman/dexter/

Copyright 08/97 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.

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