Sat-ND, 21.10.1997 Money is energy
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Miracl: confusion and contradiction
"Scientific research" for the U.S. Air Force
Brazil takes to space
Mesat 3 planned
EchoStar III begins in-orbit tests
New Rules for Rupert
Home Shopping goes Sci Fi. Get your own personal flying saucer!
Ariane 5's blind passengers
Last Friday, the U.S. army targeted its chemical laser 'Miracl' at an ageing satellite in "an attempt to measure whether a laser beam could damage the satellite's ability to operate." Strangely enough, even today it still isn't know whether the victim, MSTI-3, was damaged in any way.
In fact, it's not even known what really happened during the test and what its objectives were. There are contradicting reports, probably owing to contradicting statements by officials. The latest version is that Mircal was fired two times for less than five seconds each -- yesterday, Army Col. Richard Bridges, a Pentagon spokesman, was reported as saying the laser was fired twice, the first time for less than one second, the second time about 10 seconds.
You may think the whole story had been a bit obscure from the beginning, and such a view is most certainly supported by various confusing reports available up to now. One claims, for instance, that neither the satellite nor its target point, the spacecraft's infrared camera, was damaged or disabled in the two test firings. Within the same paragraph, the Pentagon was quoted as saying the test was proof that satellites were vulnerable to laser weapons. Am I the only one who thinks this is somewhat contradictory, at least without further explanation that so far has not been available anywhere?
The whole story has so far left just uncertainty and, what else should I call the following, propaganda: "As many as 30 nations may already be able to use low-power lasers to blind the sensors on satellites used by the U.S. military to monitor potentially hostile countries." They may or may not. As many as 30 nations also may or may not be able to fly to the moon but don't do so. One billion Chinese may or may not jump off their tables at the same time, causing the Earth to leave its orbit around the sun, but surprisingly they haven't done so either until now.
The Star Wars thing is sometimes mentioned by the mainstream media. Built by TRW, Miracl is an offshoot of the Reagan administration's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI,) and ironically so is MSTI-3 (cf. next article.) What no report so far mentioned is the military-industrial complex that's all behind that -- the U.S. satellites and the U.S. anti-satellite weapons (and yes, there are quite af few of them planned.) TRW, for instance, is also a satellite builder. Almost all of them are also into the anti-satellite business. It's a matter of taste whether one finds that only logical or rather perverse.
An mentioned earlier, you may want to get a copy of the next issue of TELE-satellite International which has some more interesting details on the Star Wars revival.
Orbital Sciences Corporation is planning to launch the Space Test Experiment Platform Mission 4 (STEP 4) satellite for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Center aboard the company's Pegasus XL air-launched rocket tomorrow, Wednesday.
The STEP 4 satellite is a 390 kg "scientific research" spacecraft designed and built by TRW Space and Electronics Group [what a coincidence] in co-operation with Orbital's Space Systems Group. It is the last in a series of STEP missions designed to utilise a common satellite platform to host multiple space science experiments. For this mission, STEP 4 will host three separate Department of Defense experiments that will study the Earth's atmosphere and ionosphere.
That's the official version. Funnily, MSTI-3 was described similarly when it was launched: "The MSTI-3 satellite is designed to gather background data on the Earths atmosphere and terrestrial environment." It was actually designed to monitor missile launches.
The first Brazilian rocket launch is imminent -- it may take place any day between today and November 10. It will deploy a satellite, which has been fully designed in this country. Really?
Not really. A big contribution to the development of the satellite has been made by Russia, which sold the altitude control and orientation system components to the Brazilians at a reasonable price, reported Itar-Tass. The 115-kg satellite, devised at the Space Research Institute in Sao Jose dos Canpos, is to be put into an orbit at an altitude of 700 km.
What it actually does is more than unclear: while Itar-Tass said it was a weather satellite, other reports claim it's intended to aid environmental monitoring from its low Earth orbit. The spacecraft, which cost some US$3 million, is called SCD-2 which reportedly stands for Data Gathering Satellite.
The 19-metres-high rocket has a launch weight of 50 tonnes, 41 tonnes of which are solid fuel. It is capable of lifting satellites of up to 350 kg in orbits at altitudes from 250 to 1,000 km. Giving possible commercial launch activities an advantage, Brazil's Alcantara launch site is close to the equator -- just 150 miles to the south. That means that satellites with a higher weight can be launched than from other sites. "It's a market that will involve billions of dollars in the next few years," Brazilian President Cardoso said.
Binariang Satellite Systems Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Binariang Bhd, is currently negotiating with four satellite manufacturers. One of them will build the company's third satellite, Measat 3.
It's not a big surprise that the companies involved are Hughes Space and Communication Corp, Lockheed Martin Corp, Loral Space and Communications Ltd and French-based Aerospatiale. The decision is expected by the end of the year. Measat-3 will probably cost more than the first two satellites in orbit, Measat 1 and Measat 2. "But it will not exceed US$300 million," Commercial Operations senior manager Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid said.
Binariang is the owner and operator of Malaysia's first regional satellite system. The troubles with the region's currencies, including the ringgit, had no impact on the company as its revenue is in US dollars.
It seems nowadays there are no reliable news anymore. Remember those recent bits about Motorola seeking launch services for up to 500 satellites between 2000 and 2010?
It's not that those stories were untrue. The problem instead is that even experts nowadays don't have any clue about what's hot and what's not. The number of 500, other sources mentioned just 300 or 400 satellites, applies to systems with illustrative names such as Celestri, MacroCell, Millennium and M-Star. Who can keep track with such a deluge of planned systems, which number on top of that is multiplying every time the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) auctions off yet another, even more remote and sinister corner of the electromagnetic spectrum?
There's movement all the time. According to Satellite Week, Millennium is dead long live Celestri, albeit modified. The magazine quoted a consultant as saying "Millennium is the only one that looks not for real. It seems to have been replaced by Celestri." Motorola in turn confirmed that Celestri has been redesigned to utilise dual-payload satellites which will accommodate Millennium services as well.
Oh finally, a good old-fashioned press release. How I've been yearning for one after all that odd stuff!
EchoStar Communications Corporation announced that EchoStar III, its third Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS), which launched successfully on October 5, 1997, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, has reached its FCC-assigned final orbit at 61.5 degrees West Longitude.
Final standard geostationary orbit was achieved after approximately 15 days of various spacecraft manoeuvres managed and implemented by Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of EchoStar's fleet of satellites. EchoStar III was placed in its final location at 61.5 degrees West after completing a series of LAE (Liquid Apogee Engine) thruster burns. The solar panels and antennas were successfully deployed, as expected, on October 15, 1997. In-orbit payload testing begun today, and is expected to continue for several weeks.
By Dr Sarmaz
U.K. telecommunications regulator Oftel said that new rules are required to promote competition in the offering of multi-channel television packages.
It's all about Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB package, of course -- the U.K.'s main supplier of basic entertainment channels as well as of premium live sports and subscription movie channels.
Oftel Director General Don Cruickshank told the European Cable Communications annual conference that the question was "how to ensure that competition at the retail level is not distorted or restricted by market power at the wholesale level -- that is, by British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC's dominant position in premium programming.
"It is essential to a competitive market in television services that a dominant operator should not be able to leverage market power from premium to basic programs," he said. One possible approach was an explicit obligation on dominant programmers (BSkyB) to supply premium channels on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.
Cruickshank demanded BSkyB be required by the U.K. fair trading authorities to publish transparent accounting statements detailing cost attributions and transfer pricing, in other words: "regular published accounts audited to a regulatory audit test," something many media moguls do not like at all.
Barry Diller's Home Shopping Network (HSN) teams up with Canadian distiller Seagram Co. Ltd.to operate Universal Television -- and that includes the cable channels USA Networks and Sci-Fi Channel which Seagram recently acquired from Viacom Inc.
It's a long story how Seagram got hold of the two channels; as a matter of fact, it took 16 months of judicial action. But then, the US$1.7 billion Seagram had to pay for the remaining 50-percent interest from Viacom seemed a bit too much. That's where Barry Diller comes into play, the inventor of QVC and now owner of HSN Inc.
Under the terms of the deal, HSN is receiving Universal's television assets, including domestic operations and 50 percent of the international operations of USA Network and the Sci-Fi Network. In exchange, Universal will receive US$4.075 billion in the form of 45% of HSN's outstanding common equity equivalents plus approximately US$1.2 billion in cash.
The acquired Universal assets will be combined with HSN's Home Shopping Network, Silver King Broadcasting and SF Broadcasting's 25 broadcast stations. Liberty Media, an affiliated programming company of Tele-Communications Inc., will own 15 percent of the new company and have the right to own up to 25 percent.
The second test flight of the new European launcher Ariane 5 will take place in November. Despite earlier announcements, it will have in fact carry some payload.
There will be Phase 3D, one of the most expensive amateur radio satellites ever built. There will also be some payload dummies (or test satellites) called Maqsat, but they seem to have developed a life of their own. Apart from recording the conditions within the rocket during the launch, they will also host no less that five additional experiments known under the common name of Teamsat (Technology, science and Education experiments Added to Maqsat.)
My favourite actually is the Orbiting Debris Device (ODD.) The Maqsat-H satellite is painted with contrasting patterns (75% white and 25% black) to support testing and calibration of ground-based optical and radar stations in Europe. The contrasting paint should also allow detection of the rotation or tumbling of Maqsat-H. Additionally, surface paint degradation will be studied, the European Space Agency said in a statement.
The costs for Teamsat, most of which experiments are more or less last-minute fellow travelling, were kept to a bare minimum (less than one million ECU) -- if you happen to have another bare million left, just transfer it to my account. (Please, email me for details.)
Additional information, including photographs taken by on-board cameras, can be found after launch [if this one won't fail, that is] on the Teamsat web site at
Copyright 1997 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.
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