Sat-ND. 7.10.97

Sat-ND, 7.10.1997  Pretty vacant
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 Copyright 1997 by Sat-ND
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Today's Headlines

    Echostar III up
    Ariane 5 launch on Oct. 28
    Cassini-Huygens on TV
    State money for launch failures
    Insat 2D lost
    IRS-1D is fine
    New Indonesian satellite planned
    The return of Stars Wars
    V-band again
    WorldCom strikes
    Satcom announces satellite miracle

Editorial note
Hi there! Here are some news from the past few days. Sorry, that doesn't mean that Sat-ND is back to normal operation yet; I just happened to have a few hours of spare time. Accept my sincere apologies for boring headlines as well as for typos and other mistakes. Apart from that, Sat-MD may look a bit strange following an online update of Star Office, the software used for producing this so-called newsletter. In fact, that update totally screwed up the whole package, it's absolutely useless now, so the whole stuff will be once more sent out as plain text. I HATE SOFTWARE COMPANIES!!! See you next week. -- Ed.

Echostar III up
A Lockheed Martin Astronautics Atlas IIAS rocket successfully launched the EchoStar III commercial communications satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit from Complex 36, Pad B, at Cape Canaveral Air Station (CCAS), Fla.
Once in final orbit at 61.5 degrees West longitude where EchoStar is authorised for up to eleven frequencies, EchoStar III will join EchoStar I and II in expanding the service of the company's DISH Network satellite system, which provides television programming to its customers throughout the U.S.
EchoStar III, equipped with 32 transponders operating at 120 watts per channel, is the third satellite built by Lockheed Martin for EchoStar Corporation and the first A2100 to be completed at its new Commercial Satellite Centre in Sunnyvale, Calif. 
"Everyone at EchoStar is excited that the EchoStar III is on its way to its final orbit destination," said Charlie Ergen, CEO and chairman, EchoStar Communications Corp. "We are all anticipating the improved capabilities we will be able to provide our subscribers. The activation of this satellite will further solidify DBS service as the better television programming option over cable."
The Atlas IIAS is the most powerful of the Atlas configurations presently launching payloads for commercial, military and government customers. Booster performance is increased through the use of four strap-on solid rocket boosters. The Atlas II series, including the II, IIA and IIAS, has had 100 percent operational success since the introduction of each launch vehicle. 
Lockheed Martin has commitments for 27 Atlas launches through the 1990s, including 19 commercial and 8 Air Force missions. Three more missions remain in the 1997 manifest.

Ariane 5 launch on Oct. 28
In a joint statement, the space agencies ESA and CNES have announced that the second test flight of the new European Ariane 5 rocket will take place on October 28 earliest.
The statement said Ariane 502 was now entering its final preparation phase. "Following a detailed evaluation with Aerospatiale, the industrial architect, of the technical tasks for the coming weeks, ESA and CNES have agreed to a schedule leading to a start of the final launch campaign on 13 October aiming at an ARIANE 502 launch as from 28 October."

Cassini-Huygens on TV
It has been described as the most ambitious voyage of space discovery ever  and as the most dangerous, too (Sat-ND, 29.9.97). The joint NASA-ESA mission Cassini-Huygens will set out on a journey to the vicinity of the distant planet Saturn, which will take nearly seven years.
The launch of NASA's Cassini spacecraft and the European Space Agency's Huygens probe is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 13, at 4:55 a.m. EDT. Lift-off will occur aboard an Air Force Titan IV-B/Centaur rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Station, FL. The launch window extends for 140 minutes until 7:15 a.m. EDT. The primary launch opportunity extends through Nov. 15.
I won't comment on the plutonium onboard this time but instead just pass on the details of the launch coverage on TV. ESA will provide a live TV transmission via satellite. If the launch occurs promptly, ESA's TV operation will last until about 60 minutes after launch (i.e. about noon, European time).
Two satellites links are available, both carrying English on audio channel 1 and French on audio channel 2. Broadcasters and others with digital receivers will favour Intelsat K, while those with analogue receivers can use Eutelsat 2. (Sorry, you've got cope with that vague announcement as ESA did not include any details with its press release.)
NASA Television (not available on satellite in Europe) will carry the pre-launch news conference at 2:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday, Oct. 11. On launch day, Monday, Oct. 13, countdown coverage will begin at 3 a.m. Coverage will conclude after Cassini's signal is acquired through the Deep Space Network's Canberra, Australia tracking station. Acquisition occurs approximately one hour after launch. The post-launch news conference will follow approximately 2 hours after launch. NASA Television is available on satellite GE 2, transponder 9C, located at 85 degrees West longitude.
ESA Huygens site: http://www.estec.esa.nl/spdwww/huygens/
NASA Cassini site: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/cassini/
A very good introduction, covering especially the Internet aspect, is available at http://www.news.com/News/Item/0,4,14916,00.html

State money for launch failures
The Japanese Science and Technology Agency is to draft a new law that would open the way for state compensation for damage caused by failed commercial rocket launches, reported news agency Kyodo.
The law would allow the government to pay partial compensation for damage caused in accidents such as a rocket colliding with an aircraft or falling onto a house, officials reportedly said. While this sounds reasonable, it also another case of hidden subsidies.
The new legislation actually is designed to help Rocket Systems Corp., a commercial satellite launching consortium set up in 1990 by more than 70 Japanese companies. "The possibility [for an accident] is very small, but it is not zero, and if it happens, paying damages would be beyond a private company's reach," one official was quoted.
Rocket Systems has won orders from two U.S. satellite companies to launch a total of some 20 satellites using Japan's H-II rocket, but the U.S. companies have been pressing Japan to introduce a legal framework for compensation for damage from rocket launches, like those in the United States and Europe.
The world's first known case of compensation for a failed rocket launch occurred after the Intelsat 708 disaster (or rather, massacre) in China's Xichang Province in February 1996. The explosion of a Chinese Long March 3B rocket killed at least six people and injured some 60 others. Some US$2 million were reportedly paid in compensation after the accident.

Insat 2D lost
India had to abandon its most sophisticated communications satellite after scientists failed to repair an on-board power failure.
Insat-2D, launched just last June by an Ariane-4 rocket from French Guiana, lost its attitude twice in three days due to power supply failure. It is not exactly known what caused the drop-out, but several other problems had been reported earlier.
Apparently, there has been a shorting of two power lines, and on top of that the mechanism for rotating one of its solar arrays got stuck. According to the newspaper The Hindu, "One possibility is that this jamming could have been caused by some metallic debris within the drive assembly which later got dislodged. It is conjectured that this debris might now have short-circuited the bus. Unfortunately, in the process, it might also have created an electric arc which welded some of the internal parts of the drive assembly."
The Insat-2D failure had serious consequences for the country's communication network  even trading at the National Stock Exchange in Bombay had come to a halt. Efforts were made to switch the affected communication networks to other satellites.

IRS-1D is fine
IRS-1D, the Indian resources (or reconnaissance?) satellite, is maintaining "good health" meanwhile despite having been put into a wrong orbit by India's indigenous PLV launcher.
The earth station of the National Remote Sensing Agency has received telemetry signals from IRS-1D, indicating that the satellite was maintaining a "very good health". Parameters such as communication capability, maintenance of temperature at required rate and functioning of the on-board computers, have been rated "very fine" by the Shadnagar station, based on the telemetry signals.
Meanwhile, the Indian Space Research Organisation ISRO has been evaluating strategies to conserve fuel when moving IRS-1D from its present elliptical orbit to a functional one. The key issue reportedly is to decide is into what sort of orbit the satellite should to be moved. 
Transferring the spacecraft to the originally planned circular 817 km orbit would take up 60 to 70 kg of its 84 kg of fuel, shortening its operational life to two or three years. ISRO is therefore thinking of moving IRS-1D into a slightly elliptical orbit, which would only require 50 kg of fuel.

New Indonesian satellite planned
PT Satelindo, a private Indonesian telecommunications operator, has invited five leading satellite manufacturers to bid for the construction and financing of the company's new telecommunications spacecraft. Four of them are interested.
Satelindo's president, Iwa Sewaka, said that British Aerospace, Space/System Loral, Hughes Space & Communications, Lockheed Martin and Aerospatiale had been invited to join the tender. Iwa said the satellite, which would be used to provide telecommunications and broadcasting services, was scheduled for operation within the next two years. He refused to elaborate on the new satellite project.
Except for British Aerospace, the satellite manufacturers were interested in the limited tender, Iwa said. Satelindo would select those which would also be able to back up the financing for the satellite construction. "The project may cost up to US$250 million or more if financing for vehicle launching service is included."

The world's first commercial xenon ion propulsion system, known as "XIPS," has successfully completed activation on the Hughes-built PAS-5 communications satellite, launched from Kazakhstan on August 27.
Satellite propulsion systems are used to maintain the position of the satellite in its proper orbit and attitude. XIPS is a revolutionary propulsion system that uses the impulse generated by a thruster ejecting electrically charged particles, or ions, at very high velocities.
Xenon, a highly dense gas, is the primary propellant and was chosen because it offers the highest thrust of all the inert, non-reactive gases. The ions ejected by the Hughes XIPS travel at a speed of 30 kilometers per second, an increase in efficiency which is 10 times greater than the chemical bipropellant systems currently in use.
Key to the XIPS advantage is improved efficiency, Hughes said in a press release. With a XIPS system onboard, propellant mass on a satellite designed for 12 to 15 years of operation can be reduced by up to 90 percent. As a result, customers can opt to launch a satellite with reduced launch costs, or, because of the weight tradeoffs possible with the XIPS system, can either extend satellite life or increase payload capabilities while holding satellite weight constant.

The return of Stars Wars
"Secretary of Defense William Cohen has approved an experiment that will be used to reduce the vulnerability of U.S. satellite systems," the U.S. Department of Defense said in a brief statement.
This means that the planned test of the giant Mid-Infra-Red Advance Chemical Laser Miracl (Sat-ND, 1./2.9.97) can go ahead as planned. In the next few days, and weather-permitting, Miracl will fire a one-second burst to locate the satellite, and a second of around 10 seconds duration in order to effectively kill the satellite without blasting it into smithereens. 
Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon told reporters that Cohen approved the test "to collect data that will help improve computer models used for planning protection measures for U.S. satellites." Bacon earlier said the test would be aimed at finding ways to incapacitate enemy satellites without hurting America's space assets. It sounded rather different when he later officially announced the test: "This is to be done for one reason, and one reason alone, to test the vulnerability or potential vulnerability of American satellites to lasers."
The laser's target will be the US$60-million Air Force Satellite MSTI-3 which has exceeded its useful lifetime, the Defense Department statement said. The satellite's manufacturer, however, disagrees; and indeed the satellite was to be used for commercial imaging  something that worries the U.S. military. Any proof? Here it is.
"The global spread of advanced satellite technology has made it possible for a number of countries to obtain high definition imagery from satellites in low Earth orbit, or to buy such information from countries offering it for sale. Such data can be of crucial importance in military operations. In future conflicts or crises the United States must be able to neutralize satellites. But at present, the U.S. has no ability to do so." That's what the U.S. Army Space and Strategic Defense Command has publicly stated. Thanks to Miracl, it may soon have the ability to knock out any unwanted satellite.
Officials reportedly acknowledged the test also will provide data that could be used to refine the laser for use in future military conflicts or to develop additional lasers for anti-satellite use, envisioned in the futuristic weapons programme of the Reagan era known as "Star Wars." According to the White House, however, this is no revival of the Star Wars programme  maybe that's because it was never really laid to rest. An in-depth report in the next issue of TELE-satellite International reveals that as a matter of fact the USA have never abandoned the development of anti-satellite weapons. Even the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) organisation is alive and well, although it has been renamed. In fact, there is an abundance of competing anti-satellite weapons under development  ironically, some well-known U.S. satellite manufacturers are deeply involved with most of them. That's business the American way: build 'em, then zap 'em, double fun, double money.
Even those who think the U.S. should have the right to kill any satellite they want are confused by the variety of satellite killers being developed, including ground-based as well as airborne laser systems  and even a ridiculous-looking giant fly swatter that knocks out enemy satellites (Sat-ND, 7.3.97.)
"I haven't seen a good, comprehensive plan by the Defense Department as to what it's going to do on the whole issue of space control," said U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, a long-time sponsor of the Miracl laser. "I would feel more comfortable if I knew where this did fit into the larger strategy and where it fits into the future."
For more information, visit the FAS Space Policy Project at http://www.fas.org/spp/

V-band again
Spectrum Astro, Inc. (by coincidence MSTI-3's manufacturer) filed with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a license to build and operate a satellite-based data communications system in the newly-opening V-band.
The Aster Satellite System will provide high data rate, high capacity, broadband communications services, the company said in a statement. Spectrum will be seeking partners to participate in the design and development of Aster, as well as to provide the service to end users. Initial service is targeted for 2002 and will reach around the world.
The Aster system is based on five geosynchronous slots with five satellites per orbital slot, each providing coverage through 48 spot beams, eight regional beams and two steerable beams. Connections between the slots are supplied by optical inter-satellite links. The footprint of each satellite will be an area approximately half the size of the United States. High speed point-to-point and point-to multipoint communications (up to 622 Mbps) will be provided through the V-band (36  51.4 GHz).
Spectrum's design is the first to exploit smaller satellites in geosynchronous orbits. Aster satellites will be deployed incrementally, augmenting transponder capacity as users demand it, thereby avoiding the frequent problem of unused transponders for the first few years of a satellite's life. This approach will, in turn, accelerate return on investment.
Early target markets include telemedicine and telelearning, private intranets and extranets, corporate training, video conferencing and business video, broadcast broadband multimedia, and software and entertainment transactions.

WorldCom strikes
Remember WorldCom, the company that bought CompuServe (Sat-ND, 8.9.97) and the sold its online business to AOL while keeping CompuServe's lucrative network services? Remember WorldCom, the company that invested US$200 million in Uunet, the world's largest provider of Internet services?
WorldCom has now made a US$30 billion (yes, that's US$30 billion) offer for long-distance giant MCI, US$9 billion more than what British Telecom (BT) has offered so far. Last November, BT announced it would merge with MCI to create Concert Plc, the world's second largest telecoms group. The deal had been delayed, but still last month BT said the merger would go ahead on revised terms. It obviously will, but not with BT whose international expansion plans have suffered a major setback, to put it mildly.
MCI, an ally of Rupert Murdoch in the U.S., also holds a domestic direct broadcast satellite (DBS) license. It was expected to be used by PrimeStar, a company set up by major cable operators Mr. Murdoch sold his satellite assets to following the breakdown of a DBS joint-venture with Echostar.

Satcom announces satellite miracle 
SatCom Media Corporation announced a high-speed, satellite connection for home TV sets that eliminates the throughput restrictions imposed by telephone lines and thus dramatically expands the market for television access to the Internet. 
As you know, available Internet-via-satelite have a major dawback: they're just one-way solutions. Called SATiTV, SatCom's new home TV system claims to eliminate the restrictions imposed by limited telephone bandwidth and combines home television programming with an effective, low-cost, real-time link to multimedia applications on the Internet. "For the first time two-way wireless interactive TV is available to users here and abroad," said Paul Rudnick, Vice President. "With SATiTV, users get the full benefits of interactive television and broadcast services on their home TV." 
SATiTV is an interactive set-top box and dish antenna that can be easily connected to any TV set. The system uses a proprietary CDMA (code division multiple access) transmission technology to minimise cost, speed system implementation and maximise transponder efficiency, while at the same time providing the security required for transaction-oriented applications. 
SATiTV can support data transmission speeds as high as 6 Mbits/second, thousands of times faster than conventional phone circuits. SatCom is now in negotiations with a number of suppliers of set-top systems, and SATiTV is expected to be available to retail customers early next year. Pricing has not been set, and a Web site doesn't seem to exist either.
However, all planned two-way Internet access systems on satellite will probably offer rather low transmission rates on the uplink part, which is of course sufficient for the average user but not for people who upload pages to their own Web site or even use the Internet for serious data transmission purposes.


Britain's ITN will take over 49 percent of the ailing news channels Euronews from France's Alcatel. The price for the stake is reportedly just 5 million  after all, the channel still isn't profitable. However, as the remaining 51 percent are still held by European public broadcasters, which in many countries still treated more favourably than commercial competitors when it comes to cable licenses, the channel has an incredible reach of over 80 million European TV households. ITN, providing news to Britain's commercial channels, will in addition gain access to the news feeds of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) following the deal. However, observers expect ITN not to play a passive role at Euronews but to actually take over every-day business.

Hong Kong's Television Broadcasts Ltd said its 70 percent owned Liann Yee Production Co Ltd had agreed to set up a joint venture to provide satellite digital television broadcasting services in Taiwan with ERA International Ltd and MBNS Worldwide Sdn. Bhd. The initial capital of the venture will be HK$53.50 million. Liann Yee will take up a 40 percent interest in the venture, ERA will take up five percent and MBNS will take up 25 percent.

Asia Satellite Telecommunications Holdings Ltd said Hutchison Whampoa Ltd had indirectly reduced its stake in Bowenvale Ltd, the parent of Asia Satellite. Hutchison's subsidiary Dontech Ltd has cut its stake in Bowenvale to 16.66 percent, while Cable and Wireless Plc and Able Star Associates Ltd, a subsidiary of China International Trust and Investment Corp, have each raised their stake to 41.67 percent.

A new commercial television channel went on the air in Poland with plans to challenge the dominance of the country's public networks. Owned by a Polish-foreign consortium, TVN hopes to reach 85 percent of households within three years through lively programming and to tap Poland's growing advertising market. TVN, in which Poland's ITI TV Holdings has a 67 percent stake and U.S.-based Central European Media Enterprises (CME) 33 percent, will invest up to US$90 million to launch the service and wants to break even in up to four years.

Pearson Plc is considering the disposal of minority stakes its TV arm holds in BSkyB, Flextech and satellite operator SES, chief executive Marjorie Scardino said. The holdings were under review as part of a process of swapping "passive assets for managed assets." 

In a move to expand its programming, gay online service PlanetOut (http://www.planetout.com/) said it was purchasing GLOradio, a producer of RealAudio shows covering the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. GLOradio claims some 50,000 monthly listeners. Terms of the sale were not disclosed. Besides offering programs to the Web site, PlanetOut said it plans to syndicate the shows to radio stations and other gay and lesbian Web sites.

The Economic Affairs Committee for the European Union adopted a proposed action plan for satellite communications throughout the continent that calls for more co-operation with telecommunications interests in the United States and other nations. The committee urged the commission to support satellite projects of common interest within member nations, and to include multimedia satellite communications in any future program. The committee also called on the union to step up efforts internationally, both in terms of increased co-operation with other nations such as the United States and Russia, and by adopting a common approach to international negotiations over allocation of satellite frequencies.

The U.S. House of Representatives Telecommunications Subcommittee debated a bill that would privatise satellite communications services such as Intelsat in an effort to promote competition. House Commerce Committee Chairman Thomas Bliley said few Americans know the world's largest fleet of communications satellites is owned and operated by Intelsat [but that seems more or less to be the Americans' fault.] His bill pending before lawmakers would require the administration to negotiate for the privatisation of Inmarsat by 2001, with Intelsat privatisation following a year later.

Libya has taken a five percent stake worth $25 million in Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications Co. The Abu Dhabi-based company said "the amount invested by Libya is US$25 million which represents five percent of the total Thuraya capital amounting to $500 million." The deal brings the total number of investors in Thuraya to 16. A spokesman said Thuraya was also discussing participation with companies from India, Pakistan and Turkey. The satellite mobile phone system, which will be launched in 2000 and will be the region's biggest, will serve the Middle East, North Africa, eastern Europe, Turkey, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

Initial images from the first complete radar survey of Antarctica, using the Canadian Space Agency's Radarsat mission, show better-than-expected details of its massive ice streams and crevices, as well as old, buried features of the international South Pole research station established in the late 1950s. The Antarctic Mapping Mission was made possible by rotating the satellite 180 degrees from its normal field of view, which was completed on Sept. 11. "The quality of these first images is quite stunning," said Dr. Robert Thomas, program manager for polar research in NASA's Office of Mission to Planet Earth, Washington, DC. Images as well as further information on the Radarsat mission are available on the Internet: http://radarsat.space.gc.ca/

Russia successfully tested a series of strategic missiles, including a type which can also be used for commercial satellite launches. The PC-12M Topol missile hit its target after a launch from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in the far north as part of a series of exercises to test new weaponry, the Strategic Missile Force's press service told Interfax news agency. Russia and the Ukraine plan to use the Topol class missiles, based on the Cold War era SS-18 missile, to launch a series of satellites in a bid to firmly establish Russia in the lucrative commercial satellite business. A preliminary agreement had earlier been reached to launch 22 Teledesic satellites for the "Internet in the sky" envisioned by billionaires McCraig and Gates as well as Boeing Co.

Thank you so much for your contributions! I've received quite a few interesting comments ;-) Please, keep it coming and tell me what satellite you hate most. And, yes, I'll accept every entry, however primitive your motivation may be. Just zap 'em! The results will be published as soon as Sat-ND is back to normal operation (hopefully next week.)

Copyright 10.97 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.
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