Sat-ND, 15.02.1998 -- Spring Edition
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Only idiots pay taxes. Rupert surely doesn't
Rupert takes share in MCE
Just when you thought you were safe...!
Hi there! I hope you all had a really good time over the past two weeks... because good times are over now! This so-called newsletter, the most loathsome waste of Internet bandwidth ever, is back -- as biased, hypocritical, superficial and ignorant as ever, but now with even more typos, misplaced idioms and bad language at no additional charge! It's time for you to feel sick... very sick!
Here's what happened over the last two weeks when I was on holiday (Bahamas, as usual.) Let's start with the older stuff, shall we?
On February 4, 1998, Arianespace successfully launched two telecommunications satellites: Brasilsat B3 for the Brazilian company Embratel, and Inmarsat-3F5 for the international organization, Inmarsat.
Flight 105 was carried out by an Ariane 44LP, the version of the European launcher with two solid and two liquid strap-on boosters. It used the 75th Ariane 4 launcher out of the 116 ordered to date from the European space industry.
Brasilsat B3 was designed and built for the Brazilian company Embratel by the U.S. firm Hughes Space and Communications in El Segundo, California. Weighing 1,760 kg (3,880 lb) at launch, it is equipped with 28 C-band transponders and one X-band transponder. Positioned at 65 degrees West, over the Atlantic Ocean, it will ensure the continuity of telecommunications services that Embratel provides for Brazil and the Mercosur countries. Brasilsat B3 is Arianespace's fifth launch for Embratel.
The Inmarsat 3F5 satellite was built by Lockheed Martin Telecommunications, East Windsor, New Jersey, and is the sixth Inmarsat satellite to be launched by Arianespace. It will provide mobile communication services above and on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Weighing 2,000 kg (4,400 lb) at launch, it will offer a 150-channel capacity in the 30 GHz band.
The next launch, Flight 106, is scheduled for February 27. An Ariane 42P launch vehicle will be used to place into orbit the Hotbird 4 satellite for the European Telecommunications Satellite Organisation, Eutelsat.
USELESS FACT: Fleas can live for months without food. If a human were a flea, they would be able to jump 1000 feet high.
French space agency CNES (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales) will have its Stentor satellite launched on an Ariane 5 in the second quarter of the year 2000, from the Guiana Space Center, in Kourou, French Guiana.
Stentor will demonstrate new space-borne telecommunications capabilities, such as wideband and multimedia services beamed to miniature user terminals. It will weigh approximately 2,000 kg at lift-off, and is designed to test and validate the latest generation of onboard equipment, developed by various research and development (R&D) programs. Stentor, built jointly by Aerospatiale Espace et Defense, Alcatel Espace, and Matra Marconi Space (MMS-France), is being developed under the responsibility of CNES, with support from France Telecom and the French defense-procurement agency, DGA (Delegation Generale pour l'Armement).
USELESS FACT: The area of the Pacific Ocean exceeds that of all the land.
Finally, the first four satellites of the Globalstar satellite system are up. A Boeing Delta II successfully launched the first four satellites of the network today (Sunday.)
To fulfil Globalstar's launch needs, the Delta II team created a vehicle configuration using four solid rocket motors and a unique satellite dispenser capable of delivering four satellites. The second launch for Globalstar, also by a Delta II 7420, is scheduled for April 1998.
Beginning in July, an additional 36 Globalstar satellites will be launched aboard three Ukrainian-built Zenit II launch vehicles (12 satellites per launch) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Globalstar expects to have launched 44 satellites by the end of 1998. The remaining 12 satellites will be launched early in 1999, completing the Globalstar constellation of 48 satellites and eight in-orbit spares.
The US$2.6 billion Globalstar system, to be comprised of 48 LEO satellites and a global array of approximately 60 ground stations, will allow people around the world to make or receive calls using cellular-sized hand-held, vehicle-mounted and fixed-site terminals. The system has been expressly designed to provide affordable digital voice services to a broad range of subscribers and users.
Technicians at Globalstar's mission control facility in San Jose successfully acquired the satellites' telemetry signals approximately one hour after launch. Over the next several days, the satellites will undergo check-out tests and eventually be transferred to their operational altitude of 1410 kilometres.
Globalstar, led by Loral Space & Communications, is a partnership of the world's leading telecommunications service providers and equipment manufacturers. Globalstar, through its strategic partnerships, has service provider agreements in 105 countries. To date, Globalstar's service providers have been awarded licenses in over 23 countries.
USELESS FACT: Every 45 seconds, a house catches fire in the United States.
A temporary moratorium, imposed on the launchings of the Proton rocket with the last stage DM, following failure with the Chinese satellite Asiasat-3, has been lifted last week.
According to news agency Itar-Tass, preparations for the next launch are already underway. A Proton is to put seven Iridium satellites into orbit from the Baikonur cosmodrome in April. Their delivery to the cosmodrome is planned for late February.
The next commercial flight of Proton is scheduled for late April when Echostar III is to be launched. All in all, the rocket producer Khrunichev plans eleven commercial Proton launches in 1998 -- quite ambitious for the time remaining between April and December.
Protons blasted off six times last year with commercial satellites, noted Itar-Tass. Five flights were successful, but the last one left the Chinese Asiasat-3 satellite in a useless orbit. An investigation commission came to the conclusion that the reason for the failure was a malfunction in the engine of acceleration stage DM-4, manufactured by Energiya Space Corporation -- which had been known immediately after the launch failure, but anyway: now that the commission has issued its report, Proton launches will be resumed.
USELESS FACT: Most cows give more milk when they listen to music.
Orbital Sciences Corporation' rocket Pegasus XL has a name that sound just like a condom brand. The company has another rocket that unlike the Pegasus is launched from the ground instead from aboard an airplane. Its name sounds just like another condom brand: Taurus.
ATaurus rocket recently deployed the U.S. Navy's GEOSAT Follow-On (GFO) satellite and two Orbcomm communications satellites into a near-polar low-Earth orbit. The launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), USA, was the second mission for Orbital's Taurus vehicle, a four-stage derivative of the company's Pegasus space launcher.
The primary payload was the U.S. Navy's GFO satellite, built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. for the U.S. Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command. The two Orbcomm satellites launched represent the 11th and 12th spacecraft in Orbcomm's planned constellation of 28 spacecraft.
USELESS FACT: There's a condom for those who are not so well-endowed, called "Okamoto Beyond Seven."
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has licensed 31 commercial satellite launches for this year, almost twice as many as last year's 17.
More than a third of last year's commercial U.S. launches were for the Iridium satellite system. In total, there were ten launches for low-Earth orbit systems.
The FAA claimed that the U.S. captured 40 percent of the world market for commercial launches in 1997, more than Europe (31 percent), Russia (20 percent) and China (9 percent). You get different figures when you ask the other launch providers, of course. World-wide, a record 35 commercial launches took place in 1997, up 67 percent from 21 launches in 1996.
The FAA also expects to license a fourth commercial launch site after Cape Canaveral, Vandenberg Air Force Base and Wallop Island.
USELESS FACT: Heinz Catsup leaving the bottle travels at 40 kilometres per year.
The World Bank said it would provide a US$200 million political risk guarantees to creditors of Russian and Ukrainian companies involved in the SeaLaunch project, which will launch satellites from a floating platform in the Pacific Ocean.
Sounds funny. What on Earth is a political risk guarantee? It means that the World Bank covers political risks like the imposition of new taxes, the introduction of curbs on foreign currency transfers and even civil disorder. Money rules.
SeaLaunch is being financed by credits from a consortium of 14 international banks. The first SeaLaunch flight is planned in October. The final target is a launch frequency of ten per year, but for the time being only six per year seem feasible owing to technical obstacles.
The project is a joint venture of Russia's Energiya (25 percent share), Boeing Commercial Space Company of the U.S. (40 percent,) Norway's Kvaerner Maritime Company (20 percent) and Ukraine's KB Yuzhnoye/PO Yuzhmash (15 percent.)
USELESS FACT: The Statue of Liberty's mouth is only 90 cm wide.
Remember the controversy around the nuclear-fuelled Cassini probe? U.S. spacecraft are expected to use enhanced solar arrays in the future that produce sufficient energy even in remote places such as a Saturn moon.
However, the Russian government has given the green light to the development of nuclear energy in space to power a new generation of space craft, reported Itar-Tass. Authorities reportedly have approved development of nuclear reactors not only for space travel but for also for space stations orbiting the Earth. It would represent a 10- to 20-fold increase in the amount of power available to cosmonauts aboard existing Russian spacecraft.
There's quite an interesting experiment that you can perform with your friends, as long as they're not too much into all this space stuff. Just ask them or anybody else: "at which altitude does the space station Mir operate?" In most cases, will will get astronomical figures instead of the correct answer "just a few hundred kilometres."
The nuclear reactors for spacecraft will reportedly not be available before 2010, so there's still plenty of time to ask those in charge whether it is a good idea to place most dangerous material just a few hundred kilometres above our heads. The recent experience with Russia's decrepit Mir space station should be warning enough. And if you remember the U.S. counterpart Skylab -- well, it's come down almost centuries ago somewhere over Australia, if I remember correctly.
USELESS FACT: Lighting strikes the Earth about 200 times a second.
Who's behind the NRO, the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office and its advanced spy satellites? A CBS news investigate report recently gave some answers.
It is usually said that the NRO builds its spy satellites on themselves, but that's of course a grotesque misunderstanding of how the U.S. military-industrial complex works. You can expect the very same U.S. companies that frequently appear in this so-called newsletter to also build the country's spy satellites.
The CBS report showed a spacecraft the size of a Greyhound bus under construction in Lockheed Martin Astronautics' facilities. Military analysts told newspapers that Lacrosse spy satellites are built at Astronautics, each costing between US$ 500 million and US$1 billion. CBS estimated that three or four such spacecraft have been launched.
The NRO, whose very existence was a secret until 1992, acknowledged the satellite was being built by Lockheed Martin Astronautics for its use. It did not elaborate on the satellite's name, mission, or how many such spacecraft are in orbit. He admitted that the NRO has the largest share of the nation's secret intelligence budget.
A Lockheed Martin spokesman admitted that "Lockheed Martin Astronautics supports the NRO." He added that "we are not in a position to say anything further."
The last Lacrosse launch is believed to have taken place last autumn (Sat-ND, 24.10.97.) The spy satellite's synthetic aperture radar, reportedly capable of providing pictures even in darkness and through clouds, may also be able to detect underground structures. The launcher, a Titan IV, happens to be built by Lockheed as well.
USELESS FACT: The concave dish shape that a liquid takes on inside a glass or tube is called a meniscus.
Following an international request for proposals, Société Européenne des Satellites (SES) has selected Aérospatiale of France as the supplier of its Astra 1K spacecraft, the biggest commercial communications satellite planned so far.
Astra 1K, the eleventh satellite in the Astra series, will be deployed at the orbital position of 19.2° East by the end of the year 2000. The spacecraft is specified for three distinct missions:
to provide full replacement capacity for Astra 1B, plus back-up capacity for the Astra A-, C- and D-bands. This mission will allow broadcasters to continue existing analogue services well into the next millennium.
to allow for additional transmission capacity and for geographical expansion of the Astra coverage area towards Central and Eastern Europe, including the European part of the CIS. This will be achieved through the geographic re-use of Ku-band frequencies. Taking full advantage of the frequency re-use capabilities of the Astra 1K spacecraft, the overall transmission capacity at 19.2° East will increase from the current 120 transponders up to 144.
to carry additional Ka-Band capacity not only providing full back-up for the Astra 1H Ka-band payload, but also enhancing ARCS through flexible bandwidth allocation and extended geographical coverage.
Astra 1K is an Aérospatiale Spacebus 3000B3S satellite with a Ku-band repeater manufactured by Alcatel. This very versatile satellite will be equipped with 9 antenna reflectors, notably allowing for frequency re-use. It will feature 52 high-power Ku-band transponders for the first five years of operation (46 transponders at end of life) as well as a two-transponder Ka-Band payload. The Ku-Band transponders will be powered by 105 Watt TWTAs (Travelling Wave Tube Amplifiers) and the Ka-band payload by 66 Watt TWTAs.
The spacecraft will be capable of generating 13 kilowatts of electrical power and will weigh, depending on the launch vehicle, between 4.5 and five tonnes. SES' contract with Aérospatiale calls for the satellite to be compatible both with the Ariane and Proton launch vehicles. The spacecraft is designed for a 13- to 16-year lifetime depending on the propulsion system.
If anybody finds Astra 1I or 1J, please hand them over to your nearest police department immediately or call the satellite police in Betzdorf, Luxembourg, Telephone +352-7107251.
USELESS FACT: One out of every hundred American citizens is colour blind.
Société Européenne des Satellites (SES) let it be known it were in the process of re-locating its Astra 1D satellite from the orbital location of 19.2° East to the second orbital position at 28.2° East.
The in-orbit manoeuvre would ensure that digital transmission capacity is available at SES' second orbital position in time for the planned launch of digital services by various broadcasters, but especially BSkyB, targeting the UK/Eire markets. The temporary re-location of an existing Astra satellite, which would have no repercussions on existing analogue or digital traffic at 19.2° East, was made possible by SES' comprehensive intersatellite back-up scheme and the built-in flexibility of Astra spacecraft to operate in different frequency bands -- but may not be necessary after all.
The original launch date for Astra 2A was August, 1997; the actual launch is now expected in May 1998. That would more or less enable the planned June launch of digital TV services, but who knows what goes wrong with the two Proton launches scheduled for April?
There's a good reason to stick with the Proton, though: its fourth stage takes the satellite very close to its final geostationary orbit, thus eliminating the need for a temporary transfer orbit. Consequently, satellites launched with a Proton retain higher fuel reserves.
Confirmed private and public SES customers for Astra 2A digital transmission capacity include:
BSkyB: 14 transponders
BBC: 2 transponders
Flextech: 2 transponders
Discovery: 1 transponder
UKTV: 1 transponder
Viacom: 1 transponder
Turner Broadcasting: ½ transponder
Furthermore, at least 2 ½ transponders will be used for the multiplexing of TV, radio and multimedia services of several other UK-targeting broadcasters.
SES will permanently operate two Astra satellites at 28.2° East. Astra 2A is scheduled for launch onboard a Russian Proton rocket in May 1998, more than half a year later than originally scheduled. Astra 2B will use an Ariane 4 launch vehicle towards the end of the year. Together, both spacecraft will provide 56 active transponders.
The drift of the spacecraft towards 28.2° East would take three weeks, SES estimated. Astra 1D would be available for first digital test transmissions in mid-March. Astra 1D will provide 18 transponders for digital transmissions in the frequency range 11.70 - 12.10 GHz, with transmission characteristics identical to the ones on the upcoming Astra 2A.
USELESS FACT: The jugular vein is an artery, not a vein.
Anik C2, the fourth of five HS 376 satellites built and launched by Hughes Space and Communications Co. for Telesat Canada, was deorbited after over 14 ½ years of round-the-clock telecommunications service.
When the final commands to switch off the satellite's telemetry were issued in Jauary, Anik C2 had not only completed its intended service life, but had lived an additional 6.5 years, Hughes said in a press . Anik C1, the first of the Anik C satellites, is still operational. Launched Nov. 11, 1982, it is scheduled for retirement in 2002.
USELESS FACT: At 9 970 610 km2, Canada is the world's second-largest country.
The headline of the press release goes like this: "Micronetics Wireless Introduces Multi-Channel Noise Generators for Satellite Communications Testing."
Well, actually you don't need them. Multi-Channel Noise is a very accurate synonym for what TV stations have been offering over the past few years -- indigestible background blurb, and as far as digital TV is concerned, in far worse quality (even much worse than plain vanilla VHS, if you care to have a closer look at the transmissions from Nagano) than any decent conventional analogue signal.
What's also pretty funny: Micronetics Wireless Inc. is traded at the NASDAQ under the symbol NOIZ.
USELESS FACT: A Macintosh LC575 has 182 speaker holes.
Intelsat plans to spin off six of its satellites into a separate, publicly traded company known as INC that will operate as a fully commercial, competitive company.
A Intelsat Working Party meeting in Washington has recommended this structure to the Intelsat Assembly of Parties, which is anticipated to approve the INC spin-off when it meets March 30 through April 1.
INC will be incorporated in the Netherlands. Intelsat plans to submit initial articles of association for INC to the Netherlands government for review in the very near future, and a search is already underway for INCs chief executive officer. Final organisational documents needed to create INC will be presented to the Intelsat Assembly of Parties at its March 30 meeting.
Once approved by the Assembly, INC will be formally organised, and the affiliate's commercial operations will commence. INC will maintain an "arms length" relationship with Intelsat for all business transactions, and will have employees, officers, directors and headquarters completely separate from Intelsat. Initially, shareholders in INC will primarily consist of Intelsat Signatories. Intelsat will have a 10% ownership stake in INC, to be placed in a non-voting trust.
INC is anticipated to become publicly traded in 1999, and will have no privileges or immunities. Individual investor ownership will be capped at 17 percent, for eventual review by INC shareholders. INC's commercial activities will be subject to national and multinational competition and regulatoryCompetitive safeguards will be put in place to ensure that INC competes on a level playing field with other satellite service providers.
Six Intelsat satellites are planned to be transferred to INC later this year. These satellites are: Intelsat 703 at 57° E, Intelsat 803 at 21.5°W, Intelsat 806 at 40.5°W, Intelsat K at 21.5°W, Intelsat 513 at 183° E, and the new K-TV satellite at 95° E. The orbital registrations relevant to the six satellites in question will be transferred to the Netherlands on behalf of INC. Existing contracts on the transferred satellites will be moved from Intelsat to INC.
Intelsat, an international treaty organisation with 142 member nations, was established in 1964 to develop an international satellite communications network to deliver services to all parts of the world.
USELESS FACT: There are 1,792 steps to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Pearson plc, the international media group, has sold its 6.3% shareholding in Société Européenne des Satellites S.A. (S.E.S.), the owners of the Astra satellite system, to a European investment institution for UKP 160 million.
Commenting on the disposal, Greg Dyke, chairman and chief executive of Pearson Television, said: "The sale is in line with our strategy of disposing of passive broadcasting investments which do not offer any real advantage to our actively managed production and distribution businesses."
The stake in S.E.S. arose from the acquisition of Thames Television in 1993 for UKP100 million. Thames continues to produce a number of long-running hit programmes for major UK broadcasters and its extensive library forms a major part of Pearson Television's international sales.
USELESS FACT: 'Cocksucker Blues' was a 1976 film about The Rolling Stones.
Belgian financier Albert Frere has decided to sell his direct 15-percent stake in French digital satellite venture Television Par Satellite (TPS) to Suez-Lyonnaise des Eaux and a further five percent to its Metropole Television M6 unit, Le Figaro daily said on Friday. Suez Lyonnaise and M6 Metropole Television have pre-emptive rights on the TPS stake.
All TPS shareholders of TPS, with the exception of France Television, had before stated their interest in buying the Albert Frere stake. TPS is jointly owned by Bouygues unit TF1 (25 percent), France Television Enterprises (France Telecom and France Television, 25 percent), M6 (20 percent), CLT-UFA (Albert Frere group) (20 percent) and Suez-Lyonnaise (10 percent).
USELESS FACT: Your left lung is smaller than your right lung to make room for your heart. I won't comment on the odd positioning of men's testicles this time.
Primestar Partners L.P., second largest provider of satellite television in the USA, and TCI Satellite Entertainment, Inc. (TSAT) announced revised plans to facilitate the restructuring of Primestar Partners L.P. into a new, national company called Primestar, Inc.
In the revised structure, TSAT and the other partners in Primestar will contribute partnership ownership interests and nearly two million medium power customers into a newly created, privately held Primestar, Inc. Under the plan, TSAT will remain a publicly held entity and retain its interests in its wholly owned Tempo Satellite, Inc. subsidiary, including its high power satellite assets and licenses for frequencies at both the 119°W and the 166°W orbital locations. TSAT will remain subject to being merged into Primestar, Inc., upon regulatory approval of Tempo's pending application to transfer its high power licenses to Primestar, Inc.
The partners' approximate equity ownership percentages in the newly consolidated Primestar, Inc., subject to closing adjustments, are as follows:
Time Warner / Newhouse 31%
Last week, it also became known that media mogul Rupert Murdoch's proposal to merge his satellite TV business into Primestar Partners won't be decided by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) before April. Primestar Partners was formed by largest cable companies in the U.S. It ranks as the country's second-largest direct satellite broadcaster behind DirecTV.
Mr Murdoch had been seeking an established partner for his ill-fated American Sky Broadcasting unit since May, when a deal to merge it with EchoStar Communications crumbled. Under the proposal, Murdoch's ASkyB satellite unit -- 80 percent owned by News Corp. and 20 percent held by MCI Communications -- will contribute two satellites under construction as well as the license for a key orbital slot to a new company called Primestar Inc.
USELESS FACT: If you can see a rainbow you must have your back to the sun. If you don't, you can't see it.
By Dr Sardonic
In most capitalist countries, it is common practice for millionaires not to pay any taxes. They have the money to hide their money from greedy taxmen.
Transferring assets from continent to continent, hiding any profits on remote islands is by no means unusual. Before anybody tries to sue me to make even more money: all that may be perfectly legal, of course. It's just indecent, immoral and a derision of anybody who pays taxes.
Nonetheless, an international task force of tax investigators has been set up to examine why newspaper and television magnate Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. pays virtually no tax anywhere. Last year News Corp. reported paying A$103 million on operating profits of A$1.32 billion dollars, a rate of 7.8 percent. In comparison, the largest media company in the world, Walt Disney Corporation paid up to 28 percent of their income in tax.
Last December, the Washington Post said News Corp's global tax rate in the 1990s averaged 5.7 percent compared with 27.2 to 32.5 percent for Disney, Viacom and Time Warner.
Britain's Independent reported that the Australian tax officials authorities have been unhappy about Mr Murdoch's companies' tax payments since the 1980s. They have met with colleagues from Britain, America and Canada and reached an agreement to set up a global inquiry into Mr Murdoch's tax practices at a meeting in Sydney last December.
Well, the remark about the Islands was no joke. Even back in 1989, an Australian parliamentary investigation found that News Corp. routed all its profits through subsidiaries in low-tax countries such as the Cayman Islands, the Dutch Antilles and Bermuda. In Britain, Mr Murdoch paid 1.2 percent taxes between 1985 and 1995 while the corporation tax was at 33 percent at the time, the Independent said.
Should you keep wondering why I refer to News Corp. as "Mr Murdoch's News Corp." although he holds just a 30-percent stake: Even the Washington Post said he was running the company single-handedly.
USELESS FACT: Americans pay over US$30,500 in federal, state, and local taxes every second. Nor Mr Murdoch, who became a U.S. citizen in order to circumvent foreign ownership restrictions.
Satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc has acquired a 49 percent stake in Music Choice Europe, enabling it to offer Sky digital subscribers some 60 channels of music broadcasting 24 hours a day.
The new service will be launched to BSkyB and cable customers in Britain and Ireland from April 1998. Some 50 channels will be made available as part of Sky's digital service launching in June 1998.
The service was given the name "Sky Music Choice." Existing shareholders in Music Choice Europe are Warner Music Group and Sony Corp.
USELESS FACT: "The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?" --David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.
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