Sat-ND, 03.02.1998 -- Buzzes like a frigde!
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Rupert covers Indian general election
Rupert merges with Japanese digital rival
A Boeing Delta II 7420-10 is in final preparations at Cape Canaveral Air Station (CCAS) for the inaugural launch of the Globalstar network scheduled for February 5. The one-hour launch window opens at 8:22 a.m. EST (1322 UTC.)
The Globalstar satellites are built by Space Systems/Loral, a division of Loral Space & Communications. When completed, the satellite constellation will consist of 48 satellites orbiting at 756 nautical miles (1400 kilometers) above the Earth. Globalstar will provide voice, data, fax and other telecommunications services to users worldwide.
The Delta II 7420-10, a special version of the Delta II, has been configured with only four solid rocket motors because the traditional Delta II 7920 with nine solid rocket motors has more payload capacity than required for this mission. The four Globalstar satellites have a total weight of 1812 kg compared to the 4,869-kg low-Earth orbit capacity of the Delta II 7920-10 launched from CCAS.
The rocket is scheduled for two Globalstar launches, delivering four satellites each into low-Earth orbit. The second launch is scheduled for April [both were originally expected in the second half of 1997.] The main part of the system will however be put into orbit using Russian rockets such as Zenith and Soyuz (Sat-ND, 6.12.96.)
USELESS FACT: It snowed in the Sahara desert on 18 February 1979.
The Taiwanese United Daily News reported that a Taiwan-Singapore commercial satellite is due to be launched at the end of May.
The satellite, dubbed ST-1, is currently undergoing final tests at Matra Marconi Space in France, which company also built the spacecraft. The launch is slated for May 26 aboard an Ariane 4 from Kourou, French Guiana.
The geostationary ST-1 will provide video broadcasting as well as VSAT, telephony and data services. VSAT allows transmission and reception of data, voice and facsimile with Very Small Aperture Terminals, i. e. antennas. Its footprint includes Southeast Asia and large parts of mainland China. It is expected to operate for twelve years.
The satellite's launch was originally scheduled for February 12 but was postponed after the investors decided to change the launch vehicle. The investors, by the way, are Taiwan's Chunghua Telecom and Singapore Telecom. Their venture costs US$240 million, including a ground control station.
USELESS FACT: Only male canaries can sing.
As reported in Sat-ND (23.10.97,) the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) plans to launch eleven research rockets from Puerto Rico to study the ionosphere.
Puerto Ricans were not amused once they found out that the research program Coqui II, due to start on February 12, involves releasing a chemical substance called aluminum trimethol into the atmosphere. Six of the rockets contain devices to record the effects of the substance reacting with the ionosphere [which stretches from 60 to 400 km altitude above the Earth's surface.]
The experiments will reportedly enable the six U.S. universities, which are collaborating with the National Science Foundation and the Goddard Space Flight Center, to measure high-level winds and turbulence in the upper atmosphere. Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory will also participate in the experiment. The data will reportedly be used to develop better radio and satellite communications systems.
Nonetheless, about 1,000 Puerto Ricons recently protested against the rocket launches, which will stretch over a month, from an abandoned U.S. Army base in the northern coast town of Vega Baja. Protesters reportedly chanted "NASA go home."
The town's Mayor Luis Melendez Cano, who led the protest, is not only concerned about the chemicals that are going to be dispersed -- he also said the noise from similar rocket launches back in 1992 caused the cement walls of nearby houses to crack.
USELESS FACT: The gorilla's scientific name is 'Gorilla, gorilla, gorilla.' [Huh?]
In a flight demonstration, Kelly Space & Technology (KST) Inc., in cooperation with NASA and the U.S. Air Force, will tomorrow demonstrate KST's patented Eclipse Tow Launch Technology. According to KST, it will "make access to space affordable and routine."
So, how does it work? The launch vehicle, dubbed Astroliner, is a delta-wing vehicle slightly larger than the Space Shuttle that can accommodate payload weights up to 4,500 kg utilising a second-stage liquid propellant propulsion system. Smaller payloads and lower orbits will be handled with a more cost-effective solid propulsion second stage. The Astroliner will begin commercial operations by mid-2001.
Now for the "Tow" bit. Under the Eclipse Tow Launch Technology, KST will use a modified aircraft to tow the Astroliner from a conventional runway to a launch altitude of almost 7 km. At launch altitude, the main rocket engine is ignited, the tow line is released, and the Astroliner climbs to the designated payload deployment altitude of approximately 133 km.
Following deployment from the Astroliner, the expendable second stage is ignited and delivers the customer's satellite into the desired orbit. After the spacecraft and second stage separation, the stage will be programmed to re-enter the atmosphere to avoid leaving debris in orbit.
What happens to the Astroliner, might you ask. It also re-enters the atmosphere and, after having decelerated to subsonic speeds, starts its air-breathing (jet engine) propulsion system. It then flies to a designated conventional runway as a piloted aircraft. [Sorry, I don't know if that means that there's really a pilot aboard or whether it's remote-controlled.]
Motorola has awarded KST a US$89 million contract to launch 20 communications satellites into orbit for its Iridium system [probably maintenance and replacement launches once the Iridium system is up and running.]
USELESS FACT: The odds of being in a plane crash are about 700,000 to 1.
The Russian government has approved the foundation of a Russian company to be called Launching Services, reported Itar-Tass.
The company will offer commercial satellite launches using light-weight booster rockets converted from military missiles. Co-founders of the company are the Russian Space Agency and the science and technology centre Kompleks.
Itar-Tass quoted governmental forces as saying that the new company is bound to get exclusive rights for commercial satellite launches using Kosmos and Start rockets.
Kosmos rockets, converted medium-range, one-stage ballistic missiles, are launched from Russia's northern cosmodrome Plesetsk. Start rockets have been derived from the strategic mobile missile system Topol. They are manufactured by the Kompleks centre. Two Start-1 rockets were successfully launched in 1997 from Russia's new launch centre Svobodny in the country's Far East.
USELESS FACT: A quarter of Russia is covered by forest.
In related news, Itar-Tass reported that commercial satellite launches are to provide the cash-strapped Russian space industry with US$1 billion within the next two or three years.
Russian Space Agency Director Yuri Koptev told the news agency that Russia's three most promising tracks in the commercial services market were manufacture of satellites, launching services and leasing the ground-based infrastructure for reception and processing of space information and access to it.
Koptev said Russia's share of the world's satellite launch services market is only 12 per cent so far, while Proton rockets make up the biggest part of that share. They are used by the Russian-American joint venture ILS that comprises Khrunichev aerospace centre, Energiya space corporation, both Russia, and the U.S. company Lockheed Martin. The venture's portfolio of orders for the nearest three-four years makes about US$1.5 billion.
I already mentioned the Start and Kosmos rockets; Soyuz rockets are marketed by Starsem in co-operation with Arianespace, Rockot launches (yes, another converted Russian military missile) are offered in co-operation with Daimler-Benz Aerospace. A programme is under way to convert the ballistic missile SS-19 to a commercial rocket as well.
However, all these activities do not exploit even half of Russia's potential of launch services, Koptev told Itar-Tass. He said that the challenge to Russian space companies was to build contacts with Western partners in order to double the market share to 20 to 22 per cent of the world's launches.
USELESS FACT: At the nearest point , Russia and America are less than 4 km apart.
Remember last Sat-ND and the two rocket launches that were expected over the weekend? No, you missed nothing. Both rockets had to stay on ground until now owing to nasty weather.
Arianespace flight 105 called off for the third time on Monday because of high altitude winds. Engineers hoped the situation would improve enough to make a new launch attempt today. If that does not work, there will be no further attempt over the next few days because the rocket's fuel [to be precise, that of the first two stages and two booster rockets] will have to be drained.
The launch of the Ariane 44LP rocket with Brasilsat-B3 and Immarsat-3F5 satellites on board had already been postponed last Friday and Saturday.
Owing to unfavourable upper level winds, the launch of five Iridium satellites by a Delta II rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base has been postponed again, the satellites' operator Motorola said on Monday.
In a press release, it was announced that a new launch date were to be made available upon further assessment of weather conditions. Nothing has been heard of another launch attempt ever since.
USELESS FACT: Your nose and ears never stop growing. [Hmm... that probably rather applies to the hair in them.]
P.T. Pasifik Satelit Nusantara (PSN), Indonesia's first private satellite company, commented on the outlook of its Multi-Media Asia (M2A) satellite initiative.
The company said in a press release it has notified Space Systems/Loral (SS/L), which is constructing an FS1300 satellite for the M2A project, that it intends to delay delivery of the satellite, which was originally scheduled for early 1999. [SS/L has stopped working on this and two other Asian satellites and even speculated about selling them to other customers -- cf. Sat-ND, 31.1.97.]
PSN now noted that the M2A service remains viable using existing satellite capacity owned by the company, and that it continues to work toward commencing a reduced-capacity, yet fully functional, version of M2A in 1999.
"Given the economic conditions prevalent throughout Asia in recent months, the company has naturally developed strategic alternatives," noted Mr. Adi Adiwoso, Chief Executive Officer of both Multi-Media Asia Indonesia (M2A's parent entity) and Pasifik Satelit Nusantara. "In the case of M2A, we have long established that the project is feasible using the M2A ground segment supplied by Alcatel with our existing extended C-band transponders on the Palapa C1 and Palapa C2 satellites."
He added that "Ultimately, of course, launch of the M2A satellite is vital to our goal of reaching a maximum number of subscribers and delivering to Asia the first fully integrated voice, data, and multimedia communications system. We continue to work towards that goal and look forward to resuming our work with SS/L when economic conditions permit."
According to Mr. Adiwoso, PSN's mobile satellite project, Asia Cellular Satellite (ACeS), "continues on schedule for its launch in the first quarter of 1999."
USELESS FACT: A bowl of Wheaties contains twice as much sodium as a bowl of potato chips.
Argentinean satellite operator Nahuelsat plans to expand its capacity by launching a new satellite, reported El Cronista.
Nahuelsat holds a 24 year government license that allow the company to offer satellite services nationwide. Currently, 70% of the capacity of the company's Nahuelsat 1 satellite is leased, generating an income of US$40 million in 1998.
Nahuelsat, which invested US$250 million into its satellite, has 50 customers throughout Latin America. Satellite services in Argentina alone represent a US$60-million market; within the Mercosur countries it is estimated at US$200 million.
USELESS FACT: There are three times as many shelters for battered animals as there are for battered women.
There is some movement behind the scenes as two French digital TV services move towards a merger.
As reported quite frequently, there are plans to merge the digital TV ventures of Canal Plus ("Canalsatellite") and Télévision par Satellite (TPS,) which is backed by public channels as well as commercial channel TF1 and France Télécom.
So far, the main obstacle reportedly is TF1. As a consequence of the stalemate, the Luxembourg-German company Ufa-CLT seems poised to leave TPS and join Canalsatellite instead, reported newspaper Les Echos. CLT-Ufa will take a decision before spring.
The move has the approval of two of CLT-Ufa's shareholders, Belgian financier Albert Frere and France's Générale des Eaux, whose chairman Messier was quoted by the Journal de Dimanche as saying that competition between TPS and Canalsatellite "would only benefit the Hollywood studios" and not the consumer.
Générale des Eaux owns 30 percent of the French state-controlled media giant Havas which has a 30 percent stake in Canal Plus.
USELESS FACT: The Dutch in general prefer their french fries with mayonnaise.
I don't have to stress the fact that Russia's space program is in urgent need of cash. Because of that, cosmonauts aboard the Mir space station have already been forced to do rather silly things such as posing with a giant Pepsi bottle in space.
Let's hope that commercial nonsense will not become practice aboard the soon-to-be-launched international space station. Anyway, the most ridiculous bit is to hit U.S. TV screens next Friday between 1 and 2 a.m. ET when the shopping channel QVC will try to sell Mars rocks, meteorites, space uniforms and "astronaut" space pens.
The program will include a live link-up with the Russian cosmonauts on board the Mir who will demonstrate the uses and features of the Fisher Space Pen, the only pen to write in the gravity-free void, freezing cold (-50 F) and extreme heat (+250 F) of space.
Well, from here we most certainly can only go up. Hey, QVC: stick to your kitchen appliances, that's more entertaining anyway.
USELESS FACT: The far side of the moon was first photographed by a Russian satellite in 1959.
Gaylord Entertainment Company will cease operation of its unprofitable CMT Europe cable network, said Terry E. London, President and Chief Executive Officer of Gaylord Entertainment.
The company will scrap its CMT Europe satellite feed on March 31, 1998. The company said it plans to examine other ways of taking country music videos and programming to the European market.
London admitted that "given the economics of the European cable market, CMT's format of providing country music videos via satellite 24-hours-per-day has resulted in losses of about [US]$10 million annually over the past two years.
The company will record a fourth quarter 1997 charge of US$3.3 million net of tax, or 10 cents per share, for shut down costs related to CMT Europe. The company also retains a lease on a satellite transponder related to CMT Europe, which, under certain circumstances, could require a termination payment of up to US$5 million net of tax.
At the same time, CMT will expand its Asia-Pacific Rim and CMT Latin America operations even though they aren't profitable yet. Both services were showing progress and are expected to be profitable within the next two to three years.
"Cable operators in Australia are truly excited about CMT and country music," said Carl Kornmeyer, President of Gaylord Entertainment's Communications Group. "Many of the cable systems tell us that CMT is one of the main reasons they are having success in gaining new subscribers. Also, Latin American cable operators have told us the CMT Latin America network is the type of musical programming that meets the needs of their subscribers."
USELESS FACT: The city of Mt. Vernon, Washington grows more tulips than the entire Netherlands.
The [conservative] Washington Times reported that more than 40 of America's most senior retired generals and admirals have sent a letter to President Clinton warning that the United States is in serious danger of losing military control of space.
Of course, the paper did not explain why it should be allowed to the U.S. -- or any other country for that matter -- to "control space." It instead claimed that America's space program was extremely vulnerable to being knocked out in a major war, unlike Russia's. [Of course -- there's not much left of it. And by the way, who would want to start "a major war" if not the U. S. of A. -- for whatever reason?]
The complaint was sparked by Mr. Clinton vetoing three U.S. space programs with military implications: the Clementine II anti-asteroid surveillance program, a space plane configured for military use and a proposed kinetic-kill anti-satellite weapon.
Complained former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, which seems to do better that his former boss Ronald Reagan, that "the administration's plan for missile defense does not include any space-based weapons." He doesn't know any better, as he was concerned with the so-called Strategic Defense Initiative, better known to the public as "star wars."
The paper, however, also quoted John Pike of the Federation of American Scientists as saying "People who live in glass houses shouldn't organise rock-throwing contests" -- meaning that if the U.S. revives the Star Wars program, other countries might follow that example. However, the U.S. satellites are the most advanced around, said Pike: "We have a lot of unique capabilities that no other country currently has or can rapidly acquire. We are the ones with the satellites other people can be shooting at." Destroying advanced satellites is easier that building them, in other words.
So let's not waste our time with nostalgic bullshit like that. Those generals seem to have no idea what modern technology can do -- for example, make satellites invisible.
According to other press reports, a new generation of small "intelligence" (spy) satellites to be launched by 2003 will enable the U.S. to monitor trouble spots anywhere in the world.
Some of the new vehicles might be equipped with stealth technology so they cannot be tracked by radar, some sources said while others doubt that a way has been found to prevent detection of the satellites.
Keith Hall, director of the National Reconnaissance Office, which builds an operates U.S. spy satellites, would not discuss stealth capability in satellites.
In theory, satellites can be tracked by anyone -- on a professional basis, this is done by radar or laser. There are rumours both the U.S. and the former Soviet Union [which has ceased to exist, by the way] have been experimenting with "cloaked" satellites. Their stealth capability would obviously just apply to radar tracking.
Anyway, especially low-Earth satellites (and spy satellites usually use these orbits) can often enough be tracked with even less than laser equipment -- there's even a community of hobbyist satellite trackers most of which use not much more than the naked eye or a telescope. Their mailing list has in the past often been a premier source of information for satellite failures.
USELESS FACT: In Los Angeles, USA, a man may legally beat his wife with a leather strap, as long as it is less than 5 centimetres wide.
NDS Americas has completed the first successful encoding and transmission of 4:2:2 digital signals via a satellite and DS3 telecom link.
So, what does DS3 mean? DS3 combines 28 1.544 Mbps channels (an equivalent of 28 T1 lines) for a total bandwidth of 45Mbps. Digital video broadcasters can allocate DS3 bandwidth in any combination of sports, non-sports, PPV, NVOD, audio or data programming. For example, digital video can be transmitted anywhere between 2 Mbps and 18 Mbps depending on the complexity of the video feed.
Because DS3 has never been tested for use with multiple MPEG-2 4:2:2 format digital video feeds in conjunction with satellite, the trial marks an industry milestone and establishes existing DS3 infrastructures as a viable transmission alternative for digital video feeds down-linked from a satellite to earth stations.
As a result of this trial, Bell Canada has purchased NDS 4:2:2 encoders to expand digital programming throughout Canada and to broadcast the upcoming 1998 Winter Olympics from Nagano, Japan.
Fast action sports programming has traditionally challenged digital broadcasters with ghosting and artefacts in the video [at least they now admit what everybody could see!,] so the test used two channels of high-intensity sports material (downhill skiing and auto racing). The success was measured by the retained picture quality of the compressed digital feed as each channel was piped through the transmission chain over DS3 compressed in 4:2:2P@ML format between 18 and 20 Mbps -- without video picture degradation. [It should be mentioned that so far there are no commonly accepted procedures to measure the degradation of a digitally compressed TV signal.]
4:2:2 encoding offers broadcasters the ability to compress, decompress and re-compress many times an original digital source feed without experiencing picture degradation commonly associated with 4:2:0 compression techniques, NDS said in a press release.
USELESS FACT:.England is smaller than New England.
Orion Network Systems Inc. and IDT Corporation have entered into an alliance to provide satellite-based telecommunications services in the major international markets.
Orion provides satellite-based Internet connections and data services for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and corporate customers worldwide. IDT, a leading provider of Internet telephony, currently offers personal computer (PC)-to-phone service worldwide, and phone-to-phone via the Internet services in the United States.
IDT plans to expand the delivery of its Internet Protocol (IP) telephony services to its customer base outside the U.S. by using Orion's global satellite network. The advanced Orion satellite network consisting of three satellites [one of which has been launched yet] will provide a full-range of services to over 85 percent of the world's population. IDT plans to roll out diversified IP telephony services in major international business centres where there is insufficient infrastructure, such as Asia, Latin America, Russia, and the Middle East.
USELESS FACT: The Phillips-head screwdriver was invented in Oregon.
by Dr Sarmaz
The world's largest democracy is... wrong, it's India. Rupert Murdoch couldn't care less for the democracy bit, but he knows it's a large country.
He's still having troubles accessing this huge market, though. For example, direct-to-home satellite reception in the Ku band has been temporarily banned until there's a new media law in affect. The move effectively keeps Mr Murdoch from offering pay-TV services in India.
Nonetheless, he's still trying to please Indian officials -- his wholly-owned subsidiary Star TV has now launched a 24-hour "election channel" as India will hold its parliamentary elections, the second in less than two years, from February 16 to March 7.
The channel, broadcast on Asiasat-2, has a technical reach of 3.3 billion people or 63 percent of the world's population. According to Rathikant Basu, Star TV's South Asia chief, it offers "non-stop election-related programming and news on the hour, every hour."
Mr Murdoch's election channel was, and that's probably quite interesting, inaugurated by the Indian Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral. He told the audience that "electronic media should mirror issues before the people and let the people decide."
Chief Election Commissioner M.S. Gill told the inauguration ceremony that the news channel would help provide more information to the people who would elect a new government.
[Just to explain the remark about Mr Murdoch and democracies: A few years ago, he told German news magazine Der Spiegel that he actually thought quite favourably of governments such as that of Singapore, which according to Western standards cannot be called democratic.]
USELESS FACT: The number of births in India each year is greater than the entire population of Australia.
Finally, Japanese digital TV services Japan Sky Broadcasting Corp (JSkyB) and PerfecTV have agreed to merge in April, creating Japan's largest direct satellite broadcasting platform.
Under the agreement, PerfecTV (which in autumn 1996 became the nation's first digital broadcasting company) will merge on a 50/50 basis with Rupert Murdoch's JSkyB.
The two companies said their major shareholders had agreed to the terms and conditions of the merger, under which one JSkyB share would be exchanged for one PerfecTV share.
PerfecTV, owned by trading companies Itochu Corp , Sumitomo Cor, Mitsui & Co and Nissho Iwai Corp (8063.T), has so far signed up 500,000 subscribers, less than its original target.
JSkyB, owned primarily by Mr Murdoch's News Corp, Sony Corp , Fuji Television Network and Softbank Corp., was expected to offer 100 channels as from April.
The planned alliance could make Sony, which also a shareholder in PerfecTV, the largest investor in the new firm. Reportedly, each shareholder's stake in the new firm would be discussed by a joint task force that will be formed to lay the groundwork for the merger.
The new alliance may deal its competitor DirecTV Japan Inc, which launched a 63-channel service on December 1, a severe blow. DirecTV Japan's main shareholders are DirecTV International Inc, a division of Hughes Electronics Corp of the United States, and Japanese video rental chain Culture Convenience Club Inc.
USELESS FACT: The average smell weighs 760 nanograms, report Japanese researchers. They weighed odours by dissolving them in fat and using an ultra-sensitive quartz crystal micro-balance.
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