Sat-ND, 20.8.97

Sat-ND, 20.08.97 -- A change will do you good
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Today's Headlines

Long March lifts Agila 2
Koreasat 3 on Ariane
NASA's Ace in Space
Brushes on fire
Universal channel world-wide
Satellites interfering with tapes on ferries
Israel stops anti-Iran broadcasts
Lock the door and draw the curtains
Rupert's shocker
Spanish digital footie wars
Sat-.ND, 19.8.97 -- Single digital TV receiver chip


Long March lifts Agila 2

Agila 2, a first high-powered telecommunications satellite, was successfully launched aboard a Chinese Long March rocket after several delays over the past weeks.
It was the first flight for a foreign company after a long pause that followed several launch failures and thus regarded as crucial by many observers. "After this success, we feel really happy," said an official of China's launch provider Great Wall Industry Corp. "We always feel extremely worried about launches because they involve high technology and high risk," the official said. It was China's 12th commercial launch for a foreign customer. I don't know exactly how many of them went wrong but it were quite a few. Reuters quoted a Western space analyst based in Hong Kong as saying "The success rate is still one-for-one with the Long March 3B and that doesn't really mean it's reliable."

The satellite

Built by Space Systems/Loral, the spacecraft has more than 9 kilowatts of total on-board power, making it the most powerful telecommunications satellite in service in the Asia-Pacific region. The high-powered spacecraft will allow its operating company, Mabuhay Philippines Satellite Company, to transmit more than 190 channels of high-fidelity digital programming to cable companies and home satellite dishes, and to handle more than 50,000 simultaneous two-way telephone conversations.
The Agila satellite operates 30 C-band transponders at 27 watts, and 24 Ku-band transponders at 110 watts that are combinable to 12 high-power transponders at 220 watts. [This is from an SS/L press release, so please don't complain about that clumsy sentence :-] The satellite features the largest number of active transponders of any satellite in the region and has a high power-to-mass ratio, making it one of the most efficient satellites in the industry. Agila 2 has an expected service life of over 12 years.
The Agila 2 design uses SS/L's three-axis, body-stabilised FS-1300 bus 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 [hopefully] provide uninterrupted electrical power to the spacecraft.

Koreasat 3 on Ariane

The Republic of Korea [South Korea] has chosen Arianespace for its latest telecommunications satellite. An Ariane rocket will boost Koreasat 3 into orbit in mid-1999.
Dr. Gye-Soon Lee, Executive Vice President of Seoul-based Korea Telecom, and Jean-Marie Luton, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Arianespace, today announced the signing of the launch contract.
Koreasat 3, the third telecommunications satellite operated by Korea Telecom, will ensure the continuity and expansion of telecommunications services offered by this operator. Built by Lockheed Martin Telecommunications in the United States, Koreasat 3 will weigh 2,790 kg (6,138 lb) at lift-off, and will have 46 Ka- and Ku-band transponders.
Arianespace has already launched two Korean technology demonstration microsatellites, Kitsat-A in August 1992 and Kitsat-B in September 1993, as auxiliary passengers. With this launch contract, the 13th of the year, Arianespace now has 46 satellites on order to be launched.

NASA's Ace in Space

The launch of NASA's Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) aboard a Boeing Delta II rocket is scheduled for August 24 from Pad A at Complex 17 on Cape Canaveral Air Station. The launch window is open from 10:41 - 11:06 a.m. EDT.
ACE will orbit the Libration Point, a location 900,000 miles from Earth where the gravitational effects of the Sun and Earth are balanced. Built for NASA by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, ACE is a spin-stabilised spacecraft carrying a combination of nine sensors and instruments on board. Spinning at five revolutions per minute, it will sample the steady stream of accelerated particles originating from the Sun and from other galactic and interstellar sources that constantly bombard the Earth. By doing so, the satellite will provide scientists with information about the formation of solar corona, solar flares, the acceleration of the solar wind and the Sun's effect on the near-Earth environment [and that includes geostationary satellites some of which were simply knocked out by solar storms, magnetic clouds and other nasty things that emanate from the Sun.]
NASA Television will carry live the Delta/ACE Prelaunch News Conference on Saturday, Aug. 23 starting at 11 a.m. On launch day, August 24, launch commentary will begin at 9 a.m. EDT and continue until a successful mission can be confirmed which will be approximately 90 minutes after launch. NASA Television is available on the GE-2 satellite, Transponder 9C, located at 85 degrees West.


Brushes ablaze

Iridium LLC said the launch of five of its satellites by a Delta rocket was postponed Tuesday because of inclement weather.
In a press release, Iridium said a new launch attempt will be made Wednesday at 8:38 p.m. EDT from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Another statement (I'm not sure about its origin, though) said that the delay was not only owing to high winds but also to "distant brush fires." As with the last half dozen of delays, the satellites remain safely aboard the rocket anyway. [Unless somebody has happened to forget a brush inside the rocket.]
There will be a live satellite broadcast feed of the launch, should it actually take place. The feed will be available on SBS-6 Transponder 9. The broadcast will start at 5:00 p.m. PDT, and last approximately one hour.


Universal channel world-wide

Universal Studios is preparing to launch its first international cable and satellite television service. "13th Street -- The Action and Suspense Channel" will debut in France on November 13, 1997. Launches in Germany and Spain will follow in 1998.
The 13th Street schedule will run 20 hours a day and will be built around local product acquisitions as well as Universal's extensive library of classic action and suspense programming. Among the highlights are the premieres of two new Universal series, New York Undercover and American Gothic. The channel will also offer marketing support through promotional tie-ins with Universal's home video, theatrical, music, theme park and consumer products divisions.
It is very unlikely that the channel will be free-to-air anywhere as Tony Garland, senior vice president, Universal Studios Networks commented that it "will add value to cable and satellite platforms in markets around the world."
Universal Studios is a unit of The Seagram Company Ltd., a global beverage and entertainment company. What a combination anyway. Cheers!

Satellites interfering with tapes on ferries

What happens when technologically disabled people have to explain their own mistakes, such as staff pressing the wrong button and subjecting children on a ferry with hard-core porn instead of Bugs Bunny? Of course, it was "a satellite glitch." Complete rubbish, of course.
Possibly the ferry in question is indeed equipped with a satellite reception system although that's rather unlikely -- such systems are available for ships but they're usually rather expensive. After all, this ferry was just going from Newhaven (UK) to Dieppe (Belgium? Don't really know :-) But even if the ferry's operator, Stena line, regards satellite TV as essential on such a short trip, they still need a decoder and a valid smartcard to receive any kind of hard-core stuff from European satellites (and usually, those channels don't start before midnight.)
So, what do we make of the following completely helpless as well as udderly ridiculous statement given by a Stena line spokeswoman: "We examined our tape but there was nothing wrong with it. It appears that a satellite glitch interfered with the tape and another film showed up for a few seconds."
Wanna read it again? "We examined our tape but there was nothing wrong with it. It appears that a satellite glitch interfered with the tape and another film showed up for a few seconds."
That's just too much! Cut it out, put a nice frame around it, and hang it at your wall.

Israel stops anti-Iran broadcasts

Israel has stopped Farsi ["Persian-language"] radio broadcasts on the country's indigenous Amos satellite that reportedly incited violence against Iran's new government.
Israeli officials said they stopped the broadcasts in part as a gesture to the new Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, who is regarded as a moderate. "The broadcasts contained incitement [to violence] and anti-Iranian speeches of the worst sort you can imagine," as a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry admitted. Funnily enough, the government did not even know from where the broadcasts originated: "We understood that this is one of the opposition organisations operating from somewhere in Europe."
The whole operation wasn't too clever, anyway: "The suspicion was the Iranians would think this was an Israeli operation or a government operation which was of course not the case," an unnamed Israeli official told a news agency.


Lock the door and draw the curtains

China will reportedly further tighten its control on foreign media.
According to a new law, foreign as well as joint-venture companies will not be allowed to invest in Chinese radio and TV stations. As from September 1, only the country's Ministry for Radio, Film and Television will be allowed to set up any new radio and TV stations. The participation of foreign companies in broadcast ventures had already been restricted to some extent back in 1995.


by Dr Sarmaz

Rupert's shocker

Rupert Murdoch's global media company News Corp Ltd. announced lower-than-expected annual profits. Earnings fell 30 percent in its latest fiscal year.
This is especially interesting as one year ago Mr Murdoch himself forecast a 20 percent profit growth (on the occasion of announcing a similarly disappointing annual result.) As a matter of fact, net profit before extraordinary losses rose just 2.5 percent to A$1.295 billion ($US962 million) in the year ending June 30. News' net profit after one-time losses looked even worse, plummeting to A$720 million (US$543 million) from A$1.02 billion(US$758 million) a year ago."It's a shocker," a Melbourne media analyst was quoted as saying.
Mr Murdoch at the same time announced a buyback of up to A$1.3 billion (US$966 million) worth of News' preferred ordinary shares, which have limited voting rights. In recent years, Murdoch issued vast numbers of preferred shares to help pay his numerous shopping sprees and expansion extravaganzas, including those troubled DTH plans in the U.S..


Spanish digital footie wars

There's still no truce in sight in the Spanish pay-TV battle that is not only about digital platforms but about football [soccer] transmission rights as well.
There have been some new developments over the past few days that in effect did nothing but heat up the battle. On Monday, the platform Canalsatelite (led by France's Canal+ and Spanish media group Prisa, backed by the country's socialist opposition,) indicated it was prepared with the rivalling platform, Via Digital, about sharing its exclusive rights to broadcast soccer matches.
Via Digital 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. It is backed the the current conservative government.
The situation is confusing as both platforms seem to have acquired some football rights: Via Digital had offered US$840 million to Audiovisual Sport [remember that name, you will need it later] for non-exclusive broadcast rights to all Spanish soccer league and cup matches for six years. Canal Satelite had paid some US$97 million for exclusive rights for the 1998/99 season through 2003, and claims that it also holds rights for the upcoming season through rights held by the Spanish unit of Canal Plus' pay-TV channel. However, a Spanish court judge ruled earlier this month that Canal Satelite could not adequately prove its claim to the matches.
So, it's not a surprise that Via Digital rejected the peace offer from its rival, claiming that Canal Satelite did not hold exclusive rights to the 1997/98 soccer season, which kicks off August 30. Actually, Telefonica recently acquired a 25 percent stake in private television station Antena 3 which allows the telecommunications giant to control Antena 3's 40-percent stake in Audiovisual Sport as well.
There may be repercussions, though: the Antena-3 deal was completed despite a warning from the European Commission. Telefonica said it defied the EC, saying that it considered the acquisition a domestic rather than a European competition issue.

FEEDBACK: Sat-ND, 19.8.97

Single digital TV receiver chip

I have a question regarding the CommQuest chip. I failed to understand after reading the paragraph what benefit will the chip be to me as a DTH consumer. I would be most obliged if you can explain it to me in non-technical terms.
(Priyankur Roy)

Well, I omitted the tech-blurb from that press release anyway... Quite simply: as far as I can see, it will have no immediate effect to any customer buying an IRD. Those devices can now probably be produced for less money, sorry: more cost-effectively. As they are in fact heavily subsidised by digital DTH services almost all over the world, there's no way consumers will immediately benefit from that development right now. (Okay, those boxes could take up less space, but as consumers usually do not accept that, they will still use a standard size casing embracing loads of wasted space. Just open some of your existing devices to look what's really in there -- you'll be surprised. But be careful not to break any warranty seals.)
In a nutshell: what you have to pay for an IRD right now has nothing to do whatsoever with the actual production cost. It will stay this way unless digital TV will become a true mass market, and I'm not even sure whether it ever will (at least in some countries.)
So, why did I include this article anyway? Just to show what's technologically possible today... :-)

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

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