Sat-ND, 23.01.1998 The newsletter without sex scandals!
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Last week's headlines
Hi! It's me again, the most talkative Larry L Lackapants. I thought this so-called newsletter might work out fine being issued every Sunday, so all you professionals <ggg> could read it on Monday once you are back to your office. He, he!
But then again, I have the some sections ready now, so why keep back all that stuff. Here are the Launches and Satellite news of the past week; the rest will follow before Monday.
Hopefully, that is it actually depends on whether my niece will allow it.
According to various reports, Israel has failed to launch a new spy satellite into orbit.
The satellite, called Ofek ("Horizon") 4, was launched aboard an indigenous two-stage Shavit rocket from the southern part of Israel's Mediterranean coast. Israeli media said the classified satellite was to be used to spy on Iran, Iraq and Syria.
Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) which is taking part in the Israeli space programme refused to comment on the reasons for the failure. There were contradicting reports as to whether the rocket or the satellite malfunctioned. While it was earlier said that the second stage of the Shavit failed, it now seems that the satellite itself did not work properly.
Ma'ariv newspaper cited technical problems in one of the satellite's systems as a likely cause. According to the paper, Ofek 4 had cost US$50 million. Israel radio said "The assessment at this stage is that the programme will continue despite the difficult technological and financial problems." For the time being, it seems Israel will be without any spy satellite capacity of its own and will instead once more have to rely on U.S. material which is exactly the situation the country had tried to avoid by constructing its own reconnaissance spacecraft.
Ofek 4 was to replace Ofek 3 which has been in space for almost three years and is reportedly nine months past the end of its expected operational life. Unlike its predecessor, Ofek 4 was to supply Israel with all-weather imaging. [I had quite some fun back then reporting on Ofek 3 when Israel claimed the satellite had photographed cars' number plates until a reader noted that even in Iraq, cars usually don't carry their license plates on their roofs.]
Because of the secrecy surrounding the Ofek 4 launch (Israeli news media cited "foreign sources" for the information, probably in order to avoid censorship,) the satellite's fate isn't exactly known. If it hasn't been destroyed yet, e.g. by an exploding second rocket stage, it will soon re-enter the Earth's atmosphere and be incinerated.
The first two Ofeks, more or less experimental satellites, were launched in 1988 and 1990.
USELESS FACT: According to Douglas Adams, a Salween is the faint taste of dishwashing liquid in a cup of fresh tea.
Japan has postponed the launch of an H-2 rocket from Tanageshima Space Centre which was originally slated for February 12 local time.
We interrupt this so-called newsletter because Martyn Williams has an announcement of great importance to make:
I'd like to invite anyone interested to join the new sat-japan mailing list.
It is intended to serve as a news and discussion list for satellite TV in Japan and I hope it will cover everything from C-band to digital CS.
It will also carry news items regarding Japanese satellite broadcasters, satellite operators or new services intended for Japan.
To subscribe, send the message "subscribe sat-japan" to email@example.com
USELESS FACT: Jupiter's magnetosphere is the largest single structure inside the Solar System. If you could see it with your eyes, it would appear larger than our full Moon.
Its launch is expected in February, and reportedly officials of the China Aerospace Corp. even said the satellite will be put into orbit "in the near future."
What satellite? Sinosat 1, built by France's Aerospatiale and owned by Sino-European joint venture Sinosat Communication Co, which is owned by China Aerospace and Germany's Daimler Benz Aerospace (DASA.) [Guess why they supplied just a few parts for Sinosat 1 and left the rest to the French.]
But no, Chinese officials still don't make precise announcements (probably in order to conceal launch postponements which, as everybody knows, are more a rule than an exception in that business.)
What did the official quoted by China News Service say? "We do not know the date, but it will be launched within this year." Oh, ah. Smashin'. And what's the spacecraft good for? It will provide telephone, fax, television and data transmission service to China and the Asia-Pacific region, the official said without giving further details.
USELESS FACT: The First episode of 'Joanie Loves Chachi' (Happy Days spinoff) was the highest rated American TV program on Korean television. 'Chachi' is Korean for penis.
It's a subject that has turned up in this so-called newsletter of the past few years a few times. Russia may be one of the commercial players in the satellite launch business but so far still relies on a foreign launch site.
The well-renowned Baikonur cosmodrome, still Russia's main site for commercial and scientific launches, is by no means situated in Russia but in Kazakhstan. Of course, it didn't matter as long as the Soviet Union existed; but under an agreement with Kazakhstan signed in 1992, the Russians have to pay US$115 million per annum for the use of the cosmodrome.
According to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Russia hasn't paid "a penny since the beginning of 1995." He called on Russia to pay US$650 million in back rent. It's unlikely that Kazakhstan will see any money soon: Russia claims that Kazakhstan has a billion-dollar debt stemming back from the Soviet era, and that it was using the Baikonur cosmodrome as a compensation.
Russia has two cosmodromes of its own, Svobodny and Plesetsk, which so far have been used for the launch of smaller satellites only. While there are plans to expand at least one of them to enable also commercial launches of larger spacecraft, it remains to be seen where the money for such an expansion would come from.
USELESS FACT: The Incas and the Aztecs were able to function without the wheel.
In more or less related news, Russian President Boris Yeltsin issued a decree handing overall control of Russia's space industry to the civilian Russian Space Agency (RKA).
The decree states that its aim was to extract maximum economic benefit from one of the few manufacturing industries in which Russia were a world leader. Yeltsin ordered the government to draw up a plan for restructuring the space industry giving priority to national security, economic and scientific missions and "strengthening Russia's position on the world market."
This adds just more confusion at least to those who were familiar with the Military Space Forces which suddenly appeared as Strategic Missile Forces. Now, it seems, we will have to get used to another name change. At least, the move should simplify Russian space operations.
But will it generate the cash so urgently needed? RKA director-general Sergei Gorbunov told Itar-Tass news agency the Defence Council approved the agency's efforts to turn to the world market to make up shortfalls in state funding. [However, Russia has already tapped into the world market for commercial satellite launches.]
USELESS FACT: Emus cannot walk backwards.
Representatives from Lockheed Martin, Allied Signal, and Computer Sciences Corporation have recently demonstrated a working model of NASA's future space operations. It works just like an Intranet.
The demonstration was assembled as a part of the Lockheed Martin team's response to NASA's Consolidated Space Operations Contract (CSOC) Request for Proposal (Sat-ND, 15.1.98.)
According to Lockheed Martin, the model features a communications network using NASA's Advanced Communications Technology Satellite to connect a simulated scientific spacecraft in Cleveland, Ohio, to an advanced control center in Houston. The advanced control center showcases autonomous ground and spacecraft operations.
The demonstration network highlights several architecture components that will provide flexible and reliable space operations at dramatically lower cost. These components include autonomy of spacecraft housekeeping and scheduling, and extensive use of industry standard networking hardware based on Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) and TCP/IP yes, it's the protocol we all know from the Internet. All of the networking hardware featured in the demonstration are commercially available off-the-shelf.
The simulated spacecraft integrates its components and subsystems with an internal local area network. The onboard computer, with a file system and network compatible operating system transforms the spacecraft into a modern distributed data system. Placing this architecture on orbit with TCP/IP/ATM- based communications enables direct access to payload instruments and realises the goal of spacecraft as sites on an Intranet.
The powerful processor and full operating system also permit sophisticated Intelligent Agent software to execute onboard for maximum autonomy. Data collected as raw telemetry on current spacecraft can be processed onboard the future vehicle into information directly usable by the science end-users. Transfer of information from space-to-ground is accomplished by the File Transfer Protocol (FTP), providing guaranteed delivery of critical scientific data. [I guess all that will not only benefit scientists, by the way.]
USELESS FACT: The cells which make up the antlers of a moose are the fastest growing animal cells in nature.
DirecTV plans to offer niche and special interest programming on PanAmSat's Galaxy III-R satellite, which provides high-power transmission coverage of the continental United States.
In an agreement in principle with PanAmSat, DirecTV initially will lease four 120-watt Ku-band transponders on Galaxy III-R. In addition, DirecTV will have the ability to expand its transmission capacity to deliver more than 120 additional channels of special interest programming, additional niche programs and future business-to-business applications. DirecTV will also have expansion capabilities for the launch of high definition television programming later this year.
Galaxy III-R, built by Hughes Space and Communications Co., was launched in December 1995 and carries 24 C-band and 24 Ku-band transponders. The spacecraft is located at 95 degrees West Longitude. The satellite is currently used by Galaxy Latin America (GLA) to provide DirecTV service in Latin America and the Caribbean. DirecTV will commence using the Galaxy III-R capacity after it is replaced by the recently launched Galaxy VIII-i satellite which will take over GLA services.
Two satellites with one dish
Hughes Network Systems (HNS) has developed a new DSS model which includes an elliptical-shaped 53- by 89-cm satellite dish and receiver to view DirecTV programming selections from Galaxy III-R. Consumers that purchase this modified HNS-brand DBS system will also have access from the same antenna to the more than 175 channels of programming offered over DirecTV satellites located at 101 degree West Longitude. [Those "cross-eyed" dishes have been around in Europe for years, enabling reception of up to six satellites without the need for a motorised dish.]
For the initial roll out, DirecTV will distribute on Galaxy III-R a series of six ethnic programming channels owned and operated by Ethnic American Broadcasting Company (EABC.) Programming will include WMNB-TV (Russian); Network Asia, serving Asians from the Indian subcontinent; Ukrainian Broadcasting Network; Ciao TV-The Italian Superchannel (Italian), backed by Dottore Berlusconi's Mediaset; and both the Egyptian Satellite Channel and Nile TV. The agreement with DirecTV provides EABC with sufficient capacity to distribute as many as 20 ethnic channels from countries around the world.
In addition, EABC will offer a variety of subscription packages containing popular ethnic programming channels, as well as provide native-language marketing, customer service and billing. EABC will also market services and packages from the existing DirecTV programming lineup to its customers.
In addition to these new ethnic services described above, DirecTV and Galaxy Latin America are developing Hispanic programming offerings for the U.S. market. No specific decisions have yet been made with regard to partners or satellite platform for such offerings.
Even more capacity
With the new capacity in place, DirecTV is reportedly looking for even more spectrum. DirecTV's Bob Marsocci reportedly said Ka-Band license applications before the Federal Communications Commission continue to wait for approval. If given green light, DirecTV would launch six Ka-Band satellites. Two would be placed at 96.5° W, another two at 105.5° W while the remaining two would be parked somewhere around the 101° W location. Hughes also has Ka-Band capacity at 99° W, and its Galaxy unit has a Ka-Band license for 101°W.
All companies [except for the programme providers] mentioned in this article are, by the way, Hughes subsidiaries or something like that keep it in the family!
USELESS FACT: The hydrochloric acid in the human stomach is strong enough to dissolve a nail.
GE American Communications, Inc. (GE Americom), a GE Capital Services company, said its new GE-3 satellite will play a key role in delivering a variety of CNN programming throughout North America.
In an agreement signed with Turner Broadcasting International, Inc., GE Americom's GE-3 will deliver CNN programming, including financial news, sports, weather, and breaking news to network television affiliates, independent stations and millions of viewers in the United States and Canada.
Turner Broadcasting will utilise three C-band transponders aboard GE-3 to transmit programming [analogue, as far as I can see] for both CNNfn and CNN/SI, CNN's 24-hour financial and sports news networks. A fourth GE-3 transponder, a Ku-band pipeline, will deliver programming for CNN Newsource, a syndicated news service comprised of more than 500 network affiliates and independent television stations in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.
GE-3, located at 87° W, is a hybrid satellite with 24 C-band and 24 Ku-band transponders that became fully operational in mid-October, 1997.
USELESS FACT: The Biro pen was invented by George and Lazlo Biro.
Echostar has asked the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permission to move satellites.
It goes like this: Echostar wants to relocate a satellite from 119° W to 148° W once Echostar IV is up (which in contrast to currently available launch lists will probably not happen in February but in March. The launch vehicle is a Russian Proton, provided by International Launch Services.)
This move had been expected, not now but in 2002. Echostar is also eyeing a 175° W position but has asked the FCC to wait until 2001 before anything serious could happen there.
USELESS FACT: One of the reasons marijuana is illegal today is because cotton growers in the 30s lobbied against hemp farmers --they saw it as competition. It is not as chemically addictive as is nicotine, alcohol, or caffeine.
The European Commission has finally found out about about navigation satellite systems and says Europe should demand an equal role with the United States and Russia in that field.
If that doesn't work, the Commission even proposes an indigenous navigation satellite system, claiming that Europe's industry could not afford to be locked out of a market that is expected to reach US$50 billion by 2005. The only systems operated so far, the U.S.' GPS and the Russian Glonass, are both military systems.
"It's vital that European industry is in a position to develop the new technology and compete in exploiting it," Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock told a news conference. [Remember him appearing in a Cindi Lauper video ages ago? Was it "Girls just wanna have fun"? ]
There is a proposal for a European system called EGNOS, which is under development by the European Space Agency and the air traffic control management centre Eurocontrol. Due to be operational by 2000, it nonetheless relies on GPS an Glonass signals.
The EU commission calls for a global system that offers access to everyone; in other words: the EU wants some guarantee that the service can't be interrupted, scrambled or distorted by anybody; which is of course exactly the right the U.S. military reserves for the GPS service.
If such a non-discriminatory system weren't possible, Europe should go ahead on its own, said Kinnock. "If we are not convinced that such a system is a realistic possibility we must press ahead with our own." That, by the way, would cost the trifle of ECU300 million (US$321 million.)
The problem behind the Commission's suggestion is that European companies now hold only about 15 percent of Europe's market for global satellite navigation equipment and five percent of the world market. However, companies from other countries offer personal GPS equipment for retail prices as low as US$100. If European companies can't compete, it probably has got nothing at all to do with the system used but with the fact that they're still to sluggish in keeping up with global competition.
USELESS FACT: Olympus Mons on Mars is the largest volcano in our solar system.
Yes, you can use laser beams for peaceful purposes. COM DEV International, Ltd. of Cambridge, Ontario [Canada], and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. (BATC) of Boulder, Colorado [USA] will set up a new company that will develop laser-based optical intersatellite link (OISL) terminals for use in the next generation of communications satellites.
The new company, Laser Communications International (LCI), is developing the terminals to meet the needs of proposed satellite communication systems like Teledesic and Celestri. COM DEV and BATC will each own 50 percent of the new company.
The optical laser terminals will be used to communicate between low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites at distances of up to 10,000 km. The terminals will send and receive digital information on optical beams. Many of the newly proposed global communication satellite systems will transfer data between satellites at rates in excess of 2 gigabits per second. The laser terminals will be able to support a high data rate, heavy load and consume very little power aboard the spacecraft.
BATC and COM DEV have completed significant development work to date on intersatellite laser communications. A team of 45 people from both companies has been working in Boulder, Colorado since early in 1997 designing terminals for data rates of between 1 to 10 Gbps. The basic engineering design of a laser optical intersatellite terminal, for such systems as Teledesic and Celestri, has now progressed to the point where the major technology risks have been retired. [I love that sentence! Does it mean "it might work, so God will"?] A 1550 nm wavelength was selected to take advantage of cost and performance advances in terrestrial fiber optic technologies. Extensive qualification testing has been performed in cooperation with U.S. Air Force Phillips Laboratory to ensure that the components will survive the radiation environment of low-Earth orbit.
BATC began work in the spaceborne laser arena in the 1970s, producing flight hardware for most government laser communications programs through the early 1990s. BATC also developed the Relay Mirror Experiment satellite for a mission which proved the feasibility of accura
COM DEV developed and manufactures the intersatellite link antennas for Motorola's 66-satellite Iridium system. The 1,100-antenna contract was the largest production order ever awarded for commercial communication satellite antennas.
USELESS FACT: Trobriand Islanders (off the coast of New Guinea) have a euphemism for having sex that translates to "scraping the tapioca."
In completely unrelated news, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. (BATC) let it be known that it was by no means and under no circumstances whatsoever the builder of the EarthWatch, Incorporated, remote sensing satellite which ceased communicating with ground controllers four days after its December 24 launch.
Yep, it's Early Bird 1 again, and it still doesn't work. Otherwise, BATC would probably not have issued a press release complaining that "reports incorrectly stated that BATC built the satellite bus." [Well, I didn't anyway.]
BATC supplied the gimbal and payload targeting mirror for the satellite, called EarlyBird 1. It also fuelled the spacecraft and supported the launch operations in eastern Russia. The satellite itself, however, was built by another aerospace company. [Orbital Sciences, if I remember correctly. Sue me if I'm wrong.]
EarthWatch, of Longmont, Colo., is the result of a merger of the commercial remote sensing efforts of WorldView Imaging Corp. and BATC. Ball is a minority shareholder in EarthWatch, and BATC has been selected by EarthWatch as the contractor to build its Quickbird one-meter image resolution satellite.
Ball Corporation in this press release claimed to produce "rigid metal and plastic containers, largely for foods and beverages, and provides aerospace and other technologies to government and commercial customers." Oh, ah. Splendid.
USELESS FACT: If you live in Michigan, did you know it's illegal to place a skunk inside your bosses desk?
Calian Technology Ltd.'s wholly-owned subsidiary SED Systems Inc., has been awarded a contract by WorldSpace Management Corporation to design, manufacture and install 14 Processed Feeder Link Stations (PFLS) for uplink of digital radio broadcast channels to the WorldSpace satellite network.
Under the terms of a US$6.4million dollar contract, SED will supply the fourteen PFLS to WorldSpace broadcast customers at sites in Africa and Asia. SED's contract duration for these systems is 20 months.
The WorldSpace enterprise, based in Washington, DC, was founded in 1990 to provide satellite digital direct audio and multimedia services to the emerging and underserved regions of the world: the Middle East, Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America.
SED Systems Inc., Calian's systems integration division, designs, develops and deploys specialised systems for the satellite and defence communications industries. Under contract to major corporations around the world, SED supplies satellite ground systems which include In-orbit Test, Satellite Spectrum Monitoring, Telemetry, Tracking and Command Systems, and Satellite Control Facilities.
USELESS FACT: The only animal with a straight backbone is the camel.
There are still two major satellite organisations that so far have generally have performed pretty well while having mostly been untouched by commercial desires. No longer.
The International Telecommunications Satellite Organisation (Intelsat) and the European Telecommunications Satellite Organisation (Eutelsat,) so far mainly dominated by mostly state-run national telecommunications companies, are both considering an initial public offering next year.
Both are considering abandoning their cooperative ownership and restructuring as private companies, London's Financial Times reported.
Analysts reportedly said privatisation would allow them to raise debt and bring in shareholders from outside the industry to support increased capital demands. The combined value of both businesses is estimated at US$3 billion.
Eutelsat spokeswoman Vanessa O'Connor was quoted as saying that "The Portugal meeting in May will be a key meeting which will decide how we will become a national law company." Representatives of the 46 governments as well as the investor companies will meet in Estoril near Lisbon from 12 to 14 May to approve changes.
"The idea is that all the assets will be transferred to a national law company (instead of the multi-national organisation). The decisions are far reaching and the meeting will decide where we will be based," O'Connor said.
Eutelsat could use a float to finance its investments as it plans to launch five satellites this year at a total cost of US$750 million, doubling its current capacity. Eutelsat made a profit of US$140 million on sales of US$415 million in 1997 and has a book value of at least US$1.2 billion.
USELESS FACT: It is forbidden for an Olympic wrestler to twist his opponents toes.
Somebody called JN sent this one in. Thanks a lot!
...a useless (news) fact from Belgium. From this week on (some) Belgian music and television fans can watch the Dutch MTV spin-off, The Music Factory. Right now there are 200 (yes, 200) cable subscribers who can watch TMF. Why only 200? Because the cable company that distributes TMF (Iverlek III) just started up and is trying to steal customers away from the existing cable operator (TVD). And they really think that offering TMF instead of RTP will do the trick? -) (a 1 year subscription at a quarter of the normal price might do it, though.)
USELESS FACT: The average farmer in Wuustwezel (largest agrarian village in Belgium) has about 200 cows.
By Dr Sarmaz
The launch of Astra 2A, supposed to bring digital satellite TV to the UK, aboard a Russian Protion rocket is now tentatively expected to take place at the end of February.
That would be more than early enough to support the second quarter launch of Mr Murdoch's BIB, but that's the least problem. Stay tuned to find out what EU commissioner Karel van Miert (SuperKarel) has to say about digital TV in the UK and in Germany as well.
It's a completely unfounded rumour, though, that we will also carry a report on the U.S. president's current testosterone level. We'll leave that to others!
USELESS FACT: Every time Beethoven sat down to write music, he poured ice water over his head.
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