Sat-ND, 08.01.1998 You can't always get what you want
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Hot or cold or what?
As I announced earlier, Sat-ND is no longer published five or even six days a week. I think two or three days per week will do as well. However, this inevitably means there will be less content (otherwise such a move wouldn't make much sense, would it?)
For example, there will be no more "Delay of the day" and generally no reports on upcoming satellite launches. (There may be exceptions, but only in case of long-term delays of launches, see the Astra/BSkyB story -- but definitely not the day-to-day business.)
Less Sat-ND means that I will have more time for other things (not what you think!) that interest me more than writing this so-called newsletter especially as there is so little response. I don't want to tell me you like it or not, because if you don't like it you can always unsubscribe and I'll know. If you don't unsubscribe, I'll notice that as well.
I had seriously hoped for some content, some news from you about media in whatever part of the world you live in. As I know today, that hope was mostly in vain. My very special thanks to all those who nonetheless contributed to this so-called newsletter in one way or another. Without you, I probably would already have given up.
USELESS FACT: 50 percent of bank robberies take place on Fridays.
Of course, everybody knows that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Lunar Prospector spacecraft is on its way to the moon.
I guess I don't have to repeat what you already know from TV or newspapers. However, you may have never heard of the rocket used for the launch from Cape Canaveral Air Station (CCAS.)
The Lockheed Martin Astronautics' Athena II is the most powerful of the Athena configurations currently launching payloads for commercial, government and international customers. The Athena I made its first successful operational launch on Aug. 22, 1997, from Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), Calif., carrying the NASA/TRW Lewis satellite. [Yes, the satellite got lost, but the launch was indeed a success.]
Two configurations of the Athena launch vehicle and two launch facilities, one on the East coast and one on the West coast, are now operational. Five more launches are on the Athena backlog, scheduled through 1999 as follows:
Ikonos 1, a commercial remote sensing satellite, built by Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space, for Space Imaging Eosat (in which Lockheed Martin is an investor), on an Athena II from VAFB, in early 1998;
NASA's second Small Satellite Technology Initiative (SSTI) satellite, Clark, built by CTA, Inc., on an Athena I from VAFB in mid-1998;
Ikonos 2, another commercial remote sensing satellite, built by Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space, for Space Imaging Eosat, on an Athena II from VAFB in late 1998;
Rocsat, Taiwan's first satellite, built by TRW, Inc., on an Athena I from CCAS in late 1998;
Space Based Infrared -- Low Altitude Demonstration System (SBIRS -- LADS) satellite for the U.S. Air Force, built by Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space and Boeing, on an Athena II from CCAS in mid-1999.
USELESS FACT: "Fraternity" used to be a term groups of thieves applied to themselves.
Following the recent launch failure that rendered an Asiasat satellite useless, there may be a delay for the Astra 2A launch, originally slated for December 1997. The officially announced date is now January 30, but it may become spring before Astra 2A will finallytake off.
The problem is that Astra 2A will use the same launch configuration as the ill-fated Asiasat, i.e. a Russian Proton launcher with a DM4 accelerator block. It is common practice in the satellite launch business to halt any pending launches unless the reason for the malfunction of a specific launch configuration is fully investigated.
BSkyB, Rupert Murdoch's UK pay TV service, wouldn't mind. An industry source was quoted as saying that not only had BSkyB a contingency plan: "Should there be any delay, then [Astra] 1G will be moved into the position where 2A would have been until 2A can be successfully launched, and then 1G will be moved back."
Astra 1G was successfully launched last December from Kazakhstan using a Russian Proton rocket.
This certainly sheds some light on the dependence of Luxembourg-based Société Européene des Satellites (SES) on Mr Murdoch's pay TV operation (and vice versa.)
A BSkyB spokesman said the company was still working toward a late spring launch, but declined further comment.
USELESS FACT: If you pick a hamster up by its hind legs, its eyes will fall out.
A high priority scientific satellite instrument developed for NASA's Mission to Planet Earth (MTPE) program is functioning well and has started sending data back to Earth.
The Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) instrument, built by TRW Inc., was launched on Nov. 27, 1997, with four other instruments on the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission observatory. CERES will help scientists understand clouds, the Earth's incoming and outgoing energy, and how they influence weather and their role in climate change.
CERES is a scanning broadband radiometer that measures reflected sunlight and emitted thermal energy from the surface of the Earth and the atmosphere. The radiometer is made up of three sensors, each with its own telescope mounted on a gimballed platform that continuously scans across the Earth in a 6.6-second cycle.
This is the first of six TRW-built CERES instruments to be launched. Three instruments have been delivered, and three are currently in production under a contract from NASA Langley Research Center. Flight plans call for two instruments to be integrated into the Earth Observing System-AM (EOS-AM) spacecraft, set for launch later this year, and the remaining three to be integrated into the EOS PM-1 and EOS AM-2 spacecraft.
The instrument underwent a successful checkout following launch and began sending data back to scientists immediately after its main cover was opened about 30 days after launch. The data supplied by CERES will be available in near real-time on a NASA Web site.
CERES data <http://asd-www.larc.nasa.gov/ceres/asdceres.html>
USELESS FACT: 99 percent of all life forms to exist on Earth are now extinct.
I couldn't confirm it in the last issue of Sat-ND, but now I can. The first commercial remote sensing satellite, Early Bird 1, is indeed lost for the time being.
The problems began four days after launch, when on December 28, 1997 the satellite went silent. Until then, everything went normal: the spacecraft was put in its proper orbit by the Russian Start-1 launcher and then separated from it.
An official of the operating company EarthWatch said this was not "uncommon in the early stage of orbital operations of a satellite." While this has indeed happened before, not all satellites that suffer from such a communications breakdown can be revived. It went well with the first two Orbcomm satellites, but spacecraft such as NASA's Lewis were lost and a few weeks later burned up when re-entering the Earth's atmosphere.
USELESS FACT: Bird droppings are the chief export of Nauru, an island nation in the western Pacific.
The Lebanese government does not want to have the rest of the world see what's going on in its country. Consequently, it has banned all commercial broadcasters from putting their news programmes on satellite. The ban does not effect terrestrial broadcasts.
Minister of Information Bassem al-Sabaa told reporters after a cabinet meeting the government "decided to ban private television from broadcasting news bulletins and political programmes on satellite and this right would be given only to the state-run television. The private television will have the choice to broadcast on the satellite the news bulletin of state-run television," i. e. the official channel Tele-Liban, whose capacity will be boosted to enable it to handle satellite broadcasts.
Only two private television stations out of five with licences for local broadcasts have permission for satellite broadcasting, and both are more or less of a political nature: Future Television, owned by billionaire prime minister Rafik al-Hariri who actually requested the ban; and Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI,) established by former right-wing Christian Lebanese Forces militia.
This political nature of Lebanese TV stations is not exactly a surprise as they were established by militia leaders during the 1975-1990 civil war and later transformed into commercial enterprises. The three non-satellite channels are the National Bradcasting Network (NBN, close to House Speaker Nabih Berri), Murr TV (MTV, owned by the brother of Interior Minister Michel Murr) and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah's al-Manar TV.
Parliament speaker Nabih Berri told reporters after the cabinet meeting that politicians should give up their media interests: "Solving problems in the media starts with the leaders and politicians' giving up of their shares in the media." It is unclear whether this also applies to the Lebanese prime minister.
He actually requested the ban because of several recent broadcasts "which posed problems by tarnishing the image of Lebanon abroad and harming its economic interests." As it is unlikely he was referring to his own channel, the target of the action probably is LBCI, which reportedly has the highest viewership in the Lebanon and the Arab Gulf states among commercial Arab television channels.
An earlier decision by the Lebanese government to impose censorship on programs judged to be political was challenged by LBCI and struck down by the State Council, which said it was incompatible with freedom of information.
USELESS FACT: The tree on the Lebanese flag is a Cedar.
And here's finally some details about what Canal France International (CFI) wants from France Télécom after Arabsat scrapped a CFI contract over the accidental showing of a pornographic film (Sat-ND, 6.1.98.)
CFI filed a FF123-million (US$60 million) lawsuit with the Paris Commercial Court. CFI's lawyer, Philippe Missika, urged the court to recognise "a serious error by France Telecom," which he blamed for CFI's losing a contract in a region which represents one-third of its business. "The work of several years was totally destroyed," Missika said, adding that in this case "CFI was the very image of France."
France Télécom said "one quarter of an hour out of 6,200 hours of programming" could not be described as a serious error and "France Télécom owns lines and cannot worry about what's inside." A ruling is expected by January 30.
USELESS FACT: Average number of frogs eaten by the French yearly: 200,000,000.
On January 5, the Israeli Parliament has approved the new budget law for the year 1998, which includes an amendment to the Telecommunications Law, concerning the provision to subscribers of Television broadcasting through satellite. Not everyone is pleased, though.
Matav-Cable Systems Media Ltd., a leading operator and provider of broadband Cable TV services in Israel, said that if and when television broadcasting through satellite takes place, it will form a possible competition that may adversely affect the company's operations.
The new law is not yet published, and the company said in a press release it has not received the final version of such law. At this stage, Matav was unable to estimate when satellite broadcasts will begin and what the range of operation of such broadcasting will be. It stressed, however, that it will take legal action in order to protect its rights.
As one of five cable TV operators in Israel, Matav operates in exclusive franchise areas which cover approximately 25 percent of Israel's households.
USELESS FACT: Albert Einstein was once offered the Presidency of Israel. He declined, saying he had no head for problems.
Europe's Arianespace rocket consortium says it needs FF1 billion to develop its new Ariane 5 launcher and keep up with the increasing competition.
The funds are needed to increase the rate of Ariane-5 launches to eight per year from the initial five planned and to develop the rocket to keep it competitive, said chairman Jean-Marie Luton. He told reporters he would present a plan for a FF1 billion share rights issue at the end of January that could be launched in the second half of 1998.
It has turned out that the Ariane 5 will not only be important for large, geostationary satellites but also for multiple-satellite launches (low Earth orbit "constellations" such as Iridium.) No Ariane launches for those new satellite systems have been ordered up to now. However, Arianespace's joint venture with France's Aerospatiale and Russian companies, Starsem is expected to sign up a major constellation order in February, Luton said. There, smaller rockets will be used to launch one or two satellites at a time.
Luton said that Arianespace would this year seriously tackle the satellite constellation market, which is expected to account for 30 percent of the telecommunications satellite market. Phillipe Couillard, director of the space division of Aerospatiale, was recently told reporters that "Arianespace lost ground in 1997. We are now in an uneasy situation." He added that last year, Arianespace accounted for just 40 percent of commercial launches.
But what do they need the money for? There will be some modifications made to the Ariane 5, such as a re-ignitable third stage. On top of that, Arianespace seems not to have fully succeeded in negotiating price reductions with its contractors Luton was earlier quoted as saying he wanted a 50 percent reduction. (The price paid for the first Ariane 5 rockets ordered is unknown.) Arianespace now said will order 50 more Ariane-5 rockets this year, with a first tranche of 20.
From 2000, the consortium will offer 10 Ariane-5 launches a year with a possible further four launches using the Ariane 4 (which originally was to be phased out by then.)
Arianespace expects to sign up between 17-18 launches in 1998, which would maintain its order book that currently stands at 43 satellites to be launched, Luton said.
USELESS FACT: Blondes have more hair than dark-haired people.
Its philosophy seems to ideally suit the sensitive Chinese market. Hong Kong based China Entertainment Television Broadcast (CETV) was set up two and a half years ago, broadcasting no sex, no violence, no news.
Notwithstanding, a Chinese consortium recently pulled out of a deal to buy 80 percent of the company, a CETV spokesman admitted. As a consequence, CETV suffered a cash-flow crisis and had to lay off half of its 200 staff.
Under the deal five mainland buyers, backed by China's Central Television (CCTV) and Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT,) were to take an 80 percent stake in debt-free CETV for US$34.3 million. Only US$11.8 million were to be paid up front in cash. The deal was meant to close last month but no money has been paid, leaving CETV without ongoing operational capital.
"Should CETV cease operations, I will be forced to commence legal action to recover the significant damages that have resulted from the failure of the buyers to fulfil their obligations under the purchase agreement," said the station's founder Robert Chua.
USELESS FACT: According to the ancient Chinese, swinging your arms cures headache pain.
Poland's @Entertainment Inc., a Nasdaq listed company, thinks its shares are underpriced and has thus decided to repurchase up to 1 million of its own shares.
The repurchase program affects approximately three percent of common stock outstanding and will be implemented in compliance with U.S. Federal securities laws, the company said in a press release. The program may be suspended or discontinued at any time, and the company has no commitment or obligation to purchase all or any of the shares.
Said CEO Robert E. Fowler, III. "This repurchase program is part of the company's continuing efforts to increase shareholder value" [yawn!]
@Entertainment, Inc. operates the largest multichannel pay television business in Poland. The company intends to expand its activities and develop a complementary digital satellite direct-to-home broadcasting service with its own branded platform of proprietary Polish-language programming.
USELESS FACT: "Polish" is the only word in the English language that when capitalised is changed from a noun or a verb to a nationality [which is an adjective, I guess.]
Portuguese state television RTP (Radiotelevisao Portuguesa) launched a new service broadcasting to former African colonies, an RTP official was quoted as saying.
"The RTP Africa channel began broadcasting at 0900 GMT by satellite from Lisbon with a speech by President Jorge Sampaio," RTP Africa's news editor, Antonio Mateus, told my favourite news agency. It's targeted at Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and the archipelagos of Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe with a total population of around 25 million.
The free-to-air channel, broadcast around the clock, is a public service featuring programs from RTP, including news bulletins, sports and special programs about Africa. It will seek corporate sponsorship for some programs to cut costs.
RTP President Manuel Roque told a Portuguese newspaper that "RTP Africa will not compete with national (African) television channels. It will be a complementary, informative service."
Technical details? As soon as the channel has appeared on satellite, you will find it listed here: <http://www.satcodx.com/>
USELESS FACT: In some parts of Africa, people say "Wake up living" instead of saying "Good night."
GlobeCast, the broadcast services division of newly-listed France Telecom, and Newsforce Ltd., the specialist satellite news gathering (SNG) and media services company, announced that they are intending to enter into a strategic partnership.
GlobeCast will acquire a significant equity stake in Newsforce and will provide additional capital to fuel Newsforce's rapid international growth.
Customers will now enjoy an extensive seamless service or a global basis, from camera facilities through to flyaway transmission units, space segment bookings, teleport facilities and fibre optic circuits, the companies announced in a press release.
Similarly, all GlobeCast regional business units will now be able to provide their customers with unrivalled fully-packaged, end-to-end, one-stop SNG solutions, from virtually any late-breaking news or sports event location on Earth by simply contacting their local GlobeCast account manager.
Newsforce specialises in providing customised video and audio communications services, primarily for special events. Based in Cyprus, the Group has offices in the UK, South Africa, Singapore and Australia, and expects to open more in 1998.
With revenues of over $330 million, GlobeCast, a division of France Telecom, ís the 4th largest telecommunications operator.
USELESS FACT: American rock musician Terry Kath died in 1978 while playing Russian Roulette. His last words were "Don't worry, it's not loaded."
Three of the eighteen Canadian defendants -- all retailers and/or distributors of U.S. "grey market" satellite dishes which are used to receive unauthorised U.S. programming -- have asked to be dropped from a lawsuit recently launched against them (Sat-ND, 3.1.98.)
The three are willing to cease all selling of the illegal satellite systems. The remaining fifteen defendants have been offered a "window" of opportunity to also voluntarily stop their "grey market" activities, including giving any assistance to consumers to obtain or extend their "grey market" programming subscriptions, and concentrate instead on promoting and selling the legal Canadian DTH services.
The suit was launched by four plaintiffs -- WIC Premium Television Ltd. (formerly Allarcom Pay Television Ltd.), TMN Networks Inc., Family Channel, and ExpressVu. ExpressVu decided to withdraw from the legal action when it became clear that a movement was underway in the satellite dealers' industry to support the Court's ruling and take advantage of "repatriation" efforts. The three remaining plaintiffs said in a press release they were also enthused over the reaction of the satellite dish dealers.
ExpressVu and Star Choice, the other Canadian DTH service which has also been a financial underwriter of the law suit launched by the four official plaintiffs, have generous "repatriation" programs, which end as of March 31, 1998. These programs virtually guarantee the equivalent cost in free programming to consumers who've bought one of the "grey market" dishes but now are taking the opportunity to trade it in with either of the two DTH companies.
USELESS FACT: The total number of cyclists in Canada is nearly 18 million, and 13.5 million of them are adults.
Report: last year was century's warmest
A [U.S.] government report says the past year was the warmest in the 20th century.
UPI Science News
1997 Registers on the Cool Side, According to Satellite Global Temperature Data
Temperature readings taken from U.S. Weather satellites, the most reliable and only global temperature data available, put 1997 among the coolest years since satellite-based measurements began in 1979.
Press Release, The Science & Environmental Policy Project
Science & Environmental Policy Project <http://www.his.com/~sepp/>
*** AND YOU STILL BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ? ***
USELESS FACT: A cargo of flatulent pigs caused an international passenger jet en route to South Africa to make an emergency landing in London. The prize porkers generated so much heat from their natural gases that they caused a fire alarm to go off in the cockpit.
Copyright 1998 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.
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