Sat-ND 97-09-02 -- The Star Wars Revival Issue
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(c) Copyright by Peter C. Klanowski
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HORNY SATELLITE AT 144 DEGREES EAST
DIGITAL GOLD RUSH
TBS TO JOIN JAPAN'S PERFECTV
ASCII V/S HTML
The U.S. Defense Department confirmed it was considering an Army request to
test fire the military's most powerful laser weapon, Miracl, at a satellite
circling Earth (Sat-ND, 1.9.97.) No decision has been made yet, DOD
officials said. Some military officials reportedly expect a permission
while others say the test may be cancelled on political grounds.
The prospect of an imminent test has provoked sceptical responses from
observers who argue that the consequences require consideration by the
government's top officials. Arms control advocates said that such tests
could backfire by setting off a race for better space weapons which in the
end would endanger U.S. satellites. Military experts say serious damage
could be done by lasers less powerful and complex than Miracl.
"I'm not sure it is in the long-term interests of the United States to
foster a race for anti-satellite systems, given that we dominate global
telecommunications with our satellite systems and with the satellites we
sell to other countries," said Brett Lambert, vice president for space and
communications at DFI International, a defence consulting concern. Really?
According to Dr John Pike, director of space policy at the Federation of
American Scientists, Miracl's major contractors are TRW Inc., Lockheed
Martin Corp. and Hughes Electronics Corp., well-known satellite
manufacturers. [Should this be true, which I somewhat doubt, you _may_ see
some logic in that. I'll leave it up to you to draw any conclusions.]
According to Pike, "Shooting a satellite is shooting ourselves in the foot.
[...] The US is extremely dependent on intelligence satellites that our
adversaries, like Iraq, could shoot down. But Iraq does not have any
satellites for us to shoot down."
Newspapers offered various theories about the motivation behind the planned
test. It seems that several systems for destroying satellites have been
developed in the U.S. but not been tested so far (as reported, those tests
were banned anyway until 1995.)
Apart from the laser-based Miracl, there are reportedly a rocket-based and
an airborne laser system, the latter favoured by the U.S. Air Force. Of
course, there's some competition between those systems.
Another reason given for the U.S. Army's move is a major war game conducted
last winter. In that 'game,' the first move made by the enemy was to attack
and destroy many commercial satellites as well as satellites of the Global
Positioning System -- a U.S. satellite system the U.S. military relies
Some regard the planned laser gun test also as warning to what has been
described as "the booming new commercial market in private spy satellites."
[Examples can be found in recent Sat-ND issues although operators
euphemistically call their spacecraft 'resources satellites' or something
For years, the United States dominated space-based reconnaissance, but now,
smaller countries and even private companies (including U.S. ones) launch
their own spy satellites, with the companies seeking to market high-quality
satellite photos. Even if they do not come close to the resolution offered
by military satellites, the pictures those spacecraft deliver have a
militarily use as they indeed allow monitoring movements of warships,
warplanes and tanks.
That's something the U.S. military does not want -- reportedly, the
anti-satellite laser is mainly targeted against enemies' orbital cameras
to keep them from spying on American weapons and troops during combat. (Of
course; it couldn't reach, for instance, geostationary satellites deployed
over Asia from U.S. territory.)
Funnily enough, the MTSI 3 (Miniature Sensor Technology Integration)
satellite, which was selected for the planned Miracl test, was to be used
for commercial Earth imaging as well once the U.S. Air Force would abandon
Launched in May 1996 and circling the Earth in some 420 km height since
then, it is a remainder of the Star Wars project in tracking missiles from
space. Its imaging systems still work, and they could be used to monitor
the Earth's surface as well.
* The estimated 3 million watts of power (the exact strength is a
classified secret) Miracl will use to kill MTSI 3 are generated by rocket
engines that burn fuel. Mirrors are used to focus this power into a narrow
beam of intense force. By the time the beam reaches the target, it would
have spread to just about 2 metres wide. MTSI 3 is about 3 metres long and
1 metre in diameter.
* Through the years, Miracl has been improved so that its beam can track
and hit satellites orbiting hundreds of kilometres overhead in space.
Uncertainties remain. For instance, it's unknown whether atmospheric
turbulence created by the hot beam will weaken its impact on a satellite
* Miracl reportedly cost about US$800 million, just a trifle in comparison
to the US$440 billion spent on Ronald Reagan's Star Wars programme since
its launch in 1983. The MTSI 3 satellite cost US$60 million.
HORNY SATELLITE AT 144 DEGREES EAST
The Philippines' first satellite, Agila II, is expected to take up
commercial operation in October, Mabuhay Philippines Satellite Corporation
President and Chief Executive Officer Cesar Reyes was quoted as saying by
the Philippine News Agency.
Agila II (also known as Mabuhay, NORAD 24901) was launched on August 20
from Xichang, China, and has meanwhile reached its orbital slot at 144
degrees East. After two manoeuvres, Agila II was confined its
station-keeping box and has since then deployed everything it needs for
operation, including what China's proud new agency Xinhua referred to as
"earth coverage horns." Honk honk!
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has to deal with some more
transponder-mongering. PrimeStar wants 11 DBS channels at 119 degrees West
currently assigned to Tempo, a unit controlled by TCI Satellite
The transfer would make it possible for PrimeStar to offer high-power DBS
service from the Tempo satellite at 119 degrees West. That satellite is
currently "on-station," but has not yet been activated.
Should the application be successful, PrimeStar would control more
"full-CONUS" (Continental U.S.) DBS channels than any other licensee. Other
DBS services such as DirecTV and EchoStar have opposed the transfer.
EchoStar, which owns the other 21 channels at 119 degrees, told the FCC
that PrimeStar's request should be denied, especially if the commission
grants the 110 degree transfer.
PrimeStar is seeking control of 28 DBS channels at 110 degrees
West currently held by MCI and News Corp which have agreed to sell their
satellite assets to PrimeStar.
DIGITAL GOLD RUSH
More than just one digital DTH has announced it will cease operations, but
a company be the name of In Stat announced that it expects dramatic growth
for digital DBS (Direct Broadcast Satellite) set top boxes due to
burgeoning global demand. In 1996, the U.S. and Canada were the primary
markets for digital DBS set top boxes. [It seems the report's authors are
not really aware of the European DTH landscape where millions of those
boxes have been ordered -- admittedly, DTH providers have experienced some
difficulties to sell them.]
I will quote just as much as this of In Stat's press release, even though I
do not agree with it: "As a result of these new launches, the world-wide
market for DBS set top boxes will be the start of the digital age of
convergence technologies," said Gerry Kaufhold, Senior Analyst for
In-Stat's Multimedia Service. "The major driving force behind this
convergence will be MPEG-2 video and audio compression standards," Kaufhold
If you still believe in this kind of stuff and need some comfort, email
email@example.com to purchase the report, or visit the company's web site
for more information:
TBS TO JOIN JAPAN'S PERFECTV
Japan's leading terrestrial broadcaster Tokyo Broadcasting System Inc (TBS)
plans to take an equity stake in Japanese satellite broadcasting service
TBS said in a statement that it may send some of its employees to work at
PerfecTV after following the deal while details yet had to be worked out. A
TBS spokesman said the firm's planned participation in PerfecTV was not
aimed at competing with rival Fuji.
Fuji Television Network Corp recently joined media tycoon Rupert Murdoch's
satellite broadcasting Japan Sky Broadcasting Corp (JSkyB).Recently, JSkyB
and PerfecTV agreed to use common receivers and antennas, allowing viewers
to choose from more than 200 channels to be offered by the two ventures on
a single digital platform.
ASCII V/S HTML
"Please could you send sat-nd in good old plain ASCII? (not HTML,
multi-part MIME, ...)"
Sure, I could. But I don't want to. [I have to right now as StarOffice
refuses to send _any_ email, and other programmes can't send HTML. Wake up,
Netscape and Microsoft! You're lamerz!] I am convinced that HTML is the
email format of the future -- within one year's time we will all be using
it and laugh about all that ridiculous formatting problems associated with
7-bit ASCII, 8-bit ASCII, quoted printable, MIME, 70- or 80-character lines
and such foolish stuff.
By the way, during the ASCII period I received far more complaints about
formatting than during the HTML period. So I'm going to switch back to
HMTL as soon as possible, of course using a dual format: HTML for
up-to-date clients and plain text for those who cannot decode HTML mail
[although I'd suggest you'd really get some decent email client. No, not
that crappy Eudora software that won't really cope with HTML.]
The bottom line is that there is no least common denominator for email
except, maybe, 7-bit ASCII. I'm not going to fall back to that -- if we all
acted like that, we'd still be living in the stone age. And frankly, I
don't wanna be neither Fred Flintstone nor Barney Rubble. In other words: I
cannot and will not guarantee that every subscriber gets Sat-ND in a format
that suits him or her. Sorry! This is a free service, so what do you
However, should a significant number of readers [a quarter or so] write in
demanding that the current non-HTML state becomes permanent, I'll
reconsider the issue :-)
Copyright (c) 1997 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights
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