Sat-ND, 07.11.1997 Piano Concerto #3
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Boeing, Lockheed Martin to compete
Premature end of TRW's space Odyssey?
Matra-Marconi to leave Bristol
BSkyB pay-per-view on cable
BBC News 24 launches on Sunday
MSNBC fights hi-tech hype
Australian rocket launch museum
The U.S. Air Force has changed plans to award a single, huge contract for a new, low-cost line of reusable satellite launch rockets. Instead of the winner taking all, there will be long-term competition between the two companies involved: Boeing Co, and Lockheed Martin Corp.
In addition, both will have to pay the development of the new rockets, so-called Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV) mostly on their own, reports the Wall Street Journal. The Air Force will then award a contract for just 30 launches from 2001 to 2005 and keep up competition for the following years.
Originally, the Air Force wanted to award the one of the two companies a contract valued at US$1.5 billion to develop the system. Now, they will have to share the contract. The winner was also expected to fill nearly all of the government's needs for those next-generation rockets over the next two decades 240 launches estimated at US$15 billion.
The U.S. Air Force has reportedly come to the conclusion that the commercial launch market is growing faster than original forecasts, thus eliminating the need to subsidise one of the two U.S. aerospace giants. The move is expected to save the Air Force US$10 billion over the next 20 years.
Ray Colladay, president of Lockheed Martin Astronautics, noted quite happily that "It's good for the government and both companies are better able to take on global competition." [True, of course, but why did Boeing and Lockheed apply for the US$1.5-billion contract in the first place if it had such negative effects on their competitiveness? Sheer patriotism? Just asking.]
For some of the proposed new satellite systems, the end may come sooner as expected. While some mainstream media started spreading the news today, Sat-ND already said on September 9, 1997, that TRW's Odyssey system may be falling apart.
However, so far it's just the opinion of analysts quoted in the press. Space and defence equipment manufacturer TRW faces the problem of finding a telecommunications partner for its US$2.3-billion Odyssey satellite system by November 18.
That day, the company is scheduled to review its proposed Odyssey program with the U.S: Federal Communications Commission (FCC.) Analysts said TRW hasn't secured financing of the telephone portion of the system yet and now faces three options if no partner can be found: pay the telephone portion itself; ask for an extension; or abandon Odyssey altogether.
TRW officials refused to comment but admitted the system, originally planned to become operational in 1999, was proceeding more slowly than planned. Odyssey announced last January that it had signed an agreement with ChinaSat, a branch of China's Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, granting it exclusive rights to distribute Odyssey in China. But that was all reportedly, the venture failed to reach a partnership agreement with an Indonesian telecommunications company recently.
Odyssey marks TRW's first attempt to develop and operate its own space-based system rather than simply supplying satellites to others. But it's not the last one anyway: as mentioned in Sat-ND, 9.9.97, TRW has filed another license application with the FCC, this time for a V-band satellite system. It comprises four spacecraft in geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) and 15 in middle Earth orbit (MEO.)
Well, dear Sun, you've got to do better than that. Not a single satellite zapped so far, and your second attempt was a total miss anyway.
There has been another major solar event yesterday, even much larger than that detected last Tuesday. Unfortunately, "we don't expect a whole lot at Earth from it," said Ernie Hildner, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Space Environment Center. "I expect the ejection to miss the Earth, going off sideways," he explained.
Mobile Communications Holdings, Inc. (MCHI,) which is planning the satellite-based mobile communications system Ellipso, has selected Lockheed Martin Management & Data Systems (M&DS) to provide systems engineering and integration support.
Lockheed Martin M&DS will provide analysis and design specifications for the overall system, which includes the space, ground and user-terminal segments as well as the associated segment interfaces. M&DS's immediate commitments include delivering an updated system specification, an initial system air-interface specification and a complete system-level concept of operations.
Seperately, MCHI announced today that it will offer free minutes of satellite communications time on the Ellipso network for the disaster relief work of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, as well as for national disaster relief in countries around the world.
MCHI also has applied to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a license to launch a second global satellite system in the recently opened 2-GHz band (Sat-ND, 30.9.97.) The second system targets "rural populations throughout the world, including Indonesia, sub-Saharan Africa, China and India," MCHI said in a statement.
Europe's largest satellite manufacturer, Anglo-French company Matra Marconi Space, is to close its space facility on the British Aerospace site at Filton, Bristol by 1999.
There will be no layoffs, but about 400 employees face relocation to the company's other main sites in Britain. A spokesman said that "The move has been brought about after a review of our facilities in Britain and the decision that it is best for us to focus our business on two main sites in view of the increasingly competitive market."
He added that "We recognise the skills of our workforce and we do not want to lose them and hope they can relocate to the other sites." According to the company, the move won't affect any of its contracts, including the £2 billion Polar Platform, an environment monitoring satellite for the European Space Agency.
Matra Marconi has about 2,500 employees in Britain and a similar number in France.
by Dr Sarmaz
British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc and Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) have reached a pact on providing digital pay-per-view television in Britain next year.
Not only digitally, though. CWC will offer BSkyB pay-per-view "on analogue and digital platforms" by next spring. That obviously means that some digital channels will be converted to analogue and offered to cable subscribers.
Programming will include movies, sport and other events and be provided through Sky Box Office. In a statement, the companies said they would co-ordinate the timing of the launch and jointly promote and market digital services.
The British Broadcasting Corp. is set to launch its own 24-hour TV news channel in Britain next Sunday at 1730 GMT.
Viewers on the Continent won't notice anything, though, and the vast majority of the audience in the UK will only be able to see "BBC News 24" for about four hours every morning after the sign-off of BBC1. Only three million cable subscribers will be able to watch the channel all day (and night) long.
The launch will be most unspectacular: "We're not planning any fireworks or any champagne spilling over or anything like that. It will be quiet -- you turn on, and it will be there," said BBC News 24 spokeswoman Michelle Green.
However, to compensate for the lack of fireworks and champagne spilling, here are some more comments by Ted Turner on BBC News 24. The inventor of the world's first 24-hour news channel thinks the BBC venture does not directly compete with CNN: "It's more competition, but I think the BBC's newscast that's going to be launched will be aimed directly at Sky News. And anything that reduces the power, particularly in this country, of Rupert Murdoch, is good for England."
Media analysts reportedly said investors had little reason to worry that Sky's audience would be falling. So why on Earth did BSkyB complain to the UK government about the new channel? Because the BBC will offer it to cable operators for free while BSkyB charges them for Sky News. However, rumour has it that Sky News, which is available in clear PAL via satellite in most parts of Europe, attracts more viewers on the Continent than in the UK anyway.
When it comes to new technology, it's not too often that you hear somebody say "not so fast." Well okay, there's me, but in this universe I'm just a speck of dust. Maybe you'd like a second opinion. Funnily enough, you can get it now on MSNBC's Web site.
There's a new column in the technology section there. Written by Bob Sullivan, it's titled "Not so fast." In the author's own words: "Technology is exciting and dynamic, and it's easy to get caught up in all that potential. Not so fast, I say. Technology is also full of hot air, broken promises, unreached potential. This column will be about what technology really can do for you not in six months, but today. Just as often, it'll be about what technology can't do."
It sounds too good to be true, but the inaugural article certainly lives up to that promise. It's about direct-to-home (DTH) television in the USA, and it contains some plain truths. For instance: "This is one of the dirty secrets of satellite TV it's much easier to install than advertising would lead you to believe. If you're even just a little handy, you can buy the bolts and cable you need at Radio Shack for a few dollars."
Believe it or not, I stumbled across this Web site by accident today even though there was an article about Australian rocket launch sites in yesterday's Sat-ND.
However, this link does not lead to any information about the planned Cape York site. Instead, it covers an earlier proposal, the Asia Pacific Space Launch Centre EIS Site at Gunn Point in the Northern Territory, Australia. This project seems to be either dead or at least hibernating as the home page claims it was "Last modified at 12:34 PM on 23/03/97."
As Sat-ND reported on October 2, 1996, the project had run into difficulties because the planned trajectory of the (Russian Proton) rockets to be launched would lead over Aborigines' hunting grounds and sacred sites.
So, is it just a coincidence that when this Web site was last updated, another Australian Launch site was brought into play? Frankly, I'm still wondering whether it's the same project in disguise.
Copyright 1997 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.
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