Sat-ND, 17.08.97

Sat-ND, 17.08.97 -- Never on Sunday
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Today's Headlines

South Africa's Cape Canaveral
Islamic moon satellite



The launch of the Filipino satellite Mabuhay was delayed again.
Originally scheduled for the early morning hours of August 18 (local time,) it had to be cancelled owing to "unsuitable weather conditions" at the Xichang launch centre, as China's news agency Xinhua reports. Apart from that, everything (including satellite, rocket and ground facilities,) were "ready for the launching." An unnamed source told the news agency that "once weather permitted, the satellite will be sent off immediately." [Never mind those launch windows, eh?]
The satellite, built by US-based Space Systems/Loral Inc. (SS/L) for Mabuhay Philippines Satellite Corporation (MPSC), is to be be put into orbit by China's-indigenous Long March 3B rocket.


There was another launch delay today. Five Iridium satellites, which were to be put into orbit by a Delta II rocket, stayed grounded because of "an issue with the satellite ground support system."
A new launch attempt will be made on August 18, local time. The Delta II is scheduled to lift-off at 5:49:54 p.m. PDT (8:49 p.m. EDT) from Space Launch Complex-2, at Vandenberg Air
There will be a live satellite broadcast feed of the launch. The feed will be available on SBS-6 Transponder 15. The broadcast will start at 5:30 p.m. PDT, and last approximately one hour. [Somehow exaggerated, considering the five-seconds launch window.]


South Africa's Cape Canaveral

So far, we've had several launch sites in Australia, in various Russian regions, in the Canadian wilderness, and we've even had ocean-going launch platforms. I can't remember any launch site in South Africa, though, but I'm just not feeling like searching my archive right now.
A local paper nonetheless reported that South Africa will build (or rather: expand) a satellite launch centre in Overberg in its Western Cape Province, announcing nothing less but the Southern hemisphere's "Cape Canaveral." It would make the region earn more than US$100 million a year and create hundreds of hi-tech jobs.
According to Ian Farr of Houwteq, the aerospace division of the South African conglomerate Denel, negotiations were underway with "a major international aerospace group which is keen to have its satellites integrated and launched at the Houwteq site." Farr claimed that Houwteq would "test, integrate and get the satellite and launch vehicle ready for orbit at our site," and was capable of staging ten launches a year. Rockets? No problem, Russia has more than enough of them and is trying to get rid of them under international disarmament treaties. (That applies to smaller launchers, however. South Africa, for geographical reasons, does not seem an ideal location to launch huge geostationary orbit satellites from anyway.)
Several international satellite groups have reportedly visited the Houwteq launch site. British Aerospace, Sweden and the Czech Republic are said to have already used the facility.


Islamic moon satellite

What, might you ask, is a mufti? Good question, because one of them will appear in this article. Hold your breath.
Mufti is the title of a consulting ecclesiastical lawyer in Muslim countries, who on request advises trial judges on the application of religious law. In most Muslim states, such as Egypt, he is officially appointed.
The mufti of Egypt is Sheikh Nasr Farid Wassel, and he announced that an "Islamic satellite" would be launched soon. Television? Heavens no! Just remember the dish bans in many Islamic countries. Sheikh Wassel told the weekly Middle East Times his country was planning to launch a spacecraft that would put an end to the disagreement "between Arab and Islamic countries over the start of the Muslim months."
The Muslim calendar solely depends on the moon. A month starts the day after the crescent is spotted with the naked eye. The person that has to decide on the start of a month, at least in Egypt, is [you guessed that, didn't you] the Mufti. But what does his naked eye spot when skies are cloudy? Nothing! Usually, this is probably not too important, with one exception: the holy month of Ramadan.
So, there quite obviously is a need for a satellite with an unobstructed view to the moon, taking pictures of her and transmitting them to Earth. That will cost less than US$2 million, said Sheikh Wassel, who hopes the spacecraft will be up there before the next Ramadan (which is expected to start around December 31 this year.) He announced that appeals for donations to help finance this project will be made soon. Technical details, however, were not available at time of writing.

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

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