Sat-ND, 23.10.1997 Bumf (Winston Churchill in drag)
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The Laser threat
Yet another new launch site?
Bonum or malum?
Really heavy stuff
I complained about contradictions in official statements on the outcome of the recent Miracl experiment. They may now easily be explained. As the Washington Post reports today, the test did not achieve its objectives. In fact, it was a triple failure.
Should you have read the recent Sat-ND articles thoroughly, you may have noted that I, unlike most news agencies, avoided using the word "successful" for the experiment. Maybe I'm a bit old-fashioned but I'd like to see the results first. As a matter of fact, there are no results.
An earlier official statement by Lieutenant Colonel Bob Potter, a Pentagon spokesman, went like this: "The experiment involved several illuminations of the satellite for less than five seconds each time. The satellite was not destroyed nor was the sensor impaired. The data collected from the experiment is being analysed and there are no plans for any future such experiments."
Failure 1: It's not quite true that data from the experiment are being analysed. There is nothing to be analysed as the targeted satellite, MSTI-3, didn't supply any data. It just did not react [which should earn this bird a posthumous valour medal.] The reason is as simple as incredibly ridiculous: the Air Force satellite can't receive commands and transmit data simultaneously, but that's obviously what Army engineers demanded of it during the laser "illumination." Engineers... sigh! [I almost became one of them. Just don't remind me of that dark period of my life.]
According to Potter, the failure was not admitted last Monday because public affairs officials were unaware of it... now come on! Those statements were so wishy-washy that everybody could clearly see that either something had gone dead wrong, or that those public affairs guys 'n' gals aren't worth the money they're paid, or both [which was my personal guess from the beginning.]
Failure 2: On top of all that shambles, the Washington Post reports that the Miracl laser suffered a technical malfunction following the experiment. The paper quoted Potter as saying the severity of the laser's malfunction was unclear because the Army was "very reticent" [reluctant] to provide details. However, he understood the damage was not permanent.
Failure 3: What's left is more or less an PR disaster with international repercussions. U.S. Senator Tom Harkin summed it up like that: "Not only was the laser test provocative and potentially damaging to the nation's arms control interests, it just failed."
It's a fact that the test was originally announced by Pentagon officials as an attempt "at finding ways to incapacitate enemy satellites without hurting Americas space assets." As this would have constituted a breach of international treaties signed by the U.S., the Miracl experiment was sold differently following the inevitable criticism.
But that's not the whole story more questions remain. The laser hit the satellite with a relatively low power beam, comparable in intensity to what the Army uses routinely to track satellites in space, said Potter. [To my knowledge, satellite tracking is mainly done by radar.] He added that the Army had done this, tracking satellites with lasers, on previous occasions. And for such a routine operation, they really need Miracl? That device is probably the strongest laser in the Western World (nobody knows exactly because it's so powerful that its actual strength is a classified secret.)
More Star Wars?
However, Star Wars isn't over. The U.S. military is working on other anti-satellite weapons even though President Bill Clinton recently scrapped funding for a U.S. Army kinetic energy anti-satellite program from the 1998 defence budget. This year, however, US$90 million will be spent on the giant satellite swatter. And anyway, the project is an older one that had been shelved once before. Those projects, including Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) seem to be like cats which are said to have seven lives. But unlike cats, those projects usually get renamed from life to life. Watch out for them.
Here's a comment by a reader who prefers to stay unnamed. If I'm not completely mistaken, he works for a company that is involved in the satellite bizniz.
First, here's the bit of Sat-ND, 21.10.97, he refers to:
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.
"In stating that over 30 countries may have the capability to develop or utilize laser weapons capable of decommissioning a satellite on orbit, I believe the U.S. has simply rounded up all foreign countries which currently have the advanced laser technology necessary to 'remove unsightly facial or body hair'.
"What a lot of hooey -- these guys are just looking for any excuse to continue work on satellite kill technology since war games held some months ago proved that the U.S. would be at a serious disadvantage if all of its satellite capacity where to be knocked out in actual combat. Another coup for military intelligence!"
[One remark: my personal guess it that the Miracl test was not performed because the U.S. Army had this laser. It's been around for years. What's relatively new is its capability to lock onto a satellite using an optical device called SLBD, SeaLite Beam Director. Funnily enough, if you have a look at photographs of that, you can clearly recognise a label attached to it that spells "HUGHES" -- one of the largest U.S. satellite manufacturers.]
As mentioned earlier, the launch of a U.S. military satellite by the name of DSCS III-2 is expected tomorrow. Thanks to Florida Today Space Online, here are some more details on the satellite.
It will be the tenth launch of a DSCS spacecraft, which the Pentagon uses to provide secure voice and data communications around the world. The DSCS constellation processed 80 percent of all military communications for ground, sea and air operations during the Persian Gulf War, U.S. Air Force officials said. Air Force forecasters say there is an 80 percent chance of good weather for an on-time launch.
Orbital Sciences Corporation said in a statement that its Pegasus XL space launch vehicle accurately placed the Space Test Experiment Platform Mission 4 (STEP 4) spacecraft into a low-Earth orbit for the U.S. Air Force.
Orbital's L-1011 carrier aircraft flew off the coast of Virginia to a predetermined launch point, at an altitude of 13 km over the Atlantic Ocean. After release from the aircraft, the Pegasus rocket ignited after a planned five-second free fall and, following an 8 minute 48 second flight, delivered the STEP 4 spacecraft to its targeted orbit at 430 km by 511 km, inclined at 45.0 degrees.
STEP 4, the fifth mission in a series of small satellites for the Space Test Program, carries three space experiments for the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Naval Research Laboratory. These experiments will, according to the official version, study the ionosphere and investigate the Earth's atmosphere [for missile launches? Just wondering.]
The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will launch eleven research rockets from Puerto Rico next year to study the ionosphere.
The first launch of the U.S. sounding rockets is set for Jan. 14 from a pad on the Atlantic coast 30 miles west of San Juan. The last is scheduled for March 9.
Six universities, the National Science Foundation and the Goddard Space Flight Center are collaborating on the project, which will measure high-level winds and turbulence in the upper atmosphere. The data will reportedly be used to develop better radio and satellite communications systems.
To answer the headline's question: No. NASA launched similar rockets from Puerto Rico to study the ionosphere in 1992.
Oh well, under normal circumstances, this would have been the top story. There will be commercial Russian satellites.
Hughes Space and Communications International Inc. has been awarded its first Russian contract for a telecommunications satellite, launch-vehicle services and ground-station control equipment from BONUM-1.
BONUM-1 is a subsidiary of Media Most, a major private Russian media group, which is developing satellite television-broadcasting services in Russia.
The new satellite, which will bear the name of its owner, will be an HS 376 high-power model satellite. Over an expected period of eleven years, it will provide digital direct-to-home television services to the western part of Russia. The satellite is scheduled for delivery in-orbit in November 1998 and will be launched on a Boeing Delta II launch vehicle.
Hughes will also provide the BONUM-1 ground satellite-control equipment for use at the control centre and will provide training to the satellite controllers. BONUM-1, to be positioned at 36°E, will carry eight active Ku-band transponders, capable of providing up to 50 digitally compressed channels using 75-watt travelling wave-tube amplifiers.
As 36°E is also the position of GALS-1 and 2, providing Russia with the NTV+ pay-TV package, it should be clear who's behind this move. NTV, with close ties to the Russian government, has also leased an ageing French DBS satellite, TDF-2, from Eutelsat to help out at that position. Recently bought by Eutelsat, TDF-2 should by now have arrived at 36°E. It was estimated that the satellite oldie would at least add one or two operational transponders to that position.
However, that orbital slot belongs to Eutelsat which also plans to move Eutelsat II-F2 there once their new Eutelsat-W1 has been launched, replacing II-F2 at 10°E. Time will tell how things fall into place.
Viewers all over the world will have to get used of the thought that their TV sets will behave differently during the course of the day.
Similar schemes have been adopted by U.S. TV stations, even for terrestrial digital transmissions. Now, Nippon Television Network Corp. (NTV) plans to adopt a combination of high-definition and ordinary television formats for digital broadcasting via direct broadcasting satellite.
The plan, to be employed by 2000, envisages airing high-definition TV programs during certain times of a day, supposedly prime time, and ordinary programs on three channels for the rest of the day.
Funnily, this reminds me of the early days of television in Germany. Back in the twenties, it used the off-hours of a radio transmitter in Berlin-Witzleben radio just wasn't a 24-hour operation back then. [No, I haven't witnessed those transmissions. I'm not quite that old, but I read about it. Back then, TV was regarded a complementary medium to radio. Nowadays, the Internet is regarded a complementary medium to TV by many companies. What do we learn from this? Exactly!]
A reader whose name I will not mention (because I don't know it) has finally come up with the most disgusting and perverse question one could imagine. It goes like this:
"Is there any German channel (except DW) around [in the USA]? (Future?) Thanks!!!"
Geez! Somebody out there seems to be in desperate need of Volksmusik, Helmut Kohl, government blurb on "tagesschau" and "heute" as well as six-minute ad breaks on commercial channels. [No kiddin', commercial breaks are really that voluptuous on German TV.]
Can anybody of my readers help this poor soul? I can't, of course; neither do I watch German TV nor do I live in the U.S. I'm not a masochist, am I?
What about the adult stuff then?, you might ask yourself. He he... sorry, I lied!
Copyright 1997 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.
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