Sat-ND, 19.02.1998 -- It's a secret!
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Everything you always wanted to know about the Vertical Blank Interrupt...
Sometimes, rockets roll in flight. Nobody really knows why.
What's happened is this: during the (otherwise successful) second test flight of the new Ariane 5 rocket, the main stage began to rotate soon after booster separation. At the end of the main stage flight, the roll rate had reached almost six revolutions per minute. The cause for the unexpected rotation was a torque of 900 Nm [Newton metre.] Such a torque is not unusual; but before the test flight it had been estimated at less than 300 Nm. The attitude control system of the main stage would have been able to compensate for that. It couldn't cope with the threefold value that actually occurred.
A group of experts has meanwhile examined the flight data. Although they have identified two possible reasons that in combination would explain the main stage's behaviour, one question remained unanswered: Was there any malfunction involved or is the torque inherent to the engine's design?
In a press release, the European Space Agency said that additional tests and actual flights are needed to answer that question. To this end, the inherent roll torque will be measured during firing tests, for which a specially designed torque-measuring device is being developed.
Among several solutions to counter the roll torque it has finally been decided to install a second attitude control system on the Ariane 503 launcher. The new unit, installed on the lower part of the vehicle equipment bay, will double the present performances and will be able to counteract a roll torque up to 2000 Nm.
USELESS FACT: If you add up the numbers 1-100 consecutively (1+2+3+4+5 etc) the total is 5050.
Arianespace has been awarded the 1998 Industry Innovator Award by the Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI,) a non-profit organisation devoted to professionals in the field of satellite communications.
According to LaRene C. Tondro, SSPI's Executive Director, the award recognises the "spectacular success of a commercial launch system which has placed over 141 satellites into orbit."
USELESS FACT: The lead singer of The Knack, famous for "My Sharona," and Jack Kevorkian's lead defence attorney are brothers, Doug & Jeffrey Feiger.
Guessed it. Bad weather again. This time in Japan.
The launch of an indigenous H2 launcher was delayed 24 hours owing to inclement weather, said a spokesman for the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA).
The flight would be the sixth of the Japanese H2. It is to launch communications and broadcasting engineering test satellite (Comets a.k.a. Kakehashi.) The launch was originally planned for last August. It was scrubbed to allow changes to Comets' solar arrays following a failure of similar systems on another satellite, Japan's Adeos (Sat-ND, 11.7.97; 7.8.97.)
USELESS FACT: When driven from a tee, a golf ball travels at over 270 km/h.
It's springtime again! That also means that your satellite dish, or your cable, might behave a bit strange over the next few days.
Actually, it depends not only on the satellite you want to receive but also on where you live, and especially the latitude of your place. It's about the same for North America and Europe; it's different in the equatorial regions or even down under.
What will happen is this: the Sun is, at different times of day, going to appear behind geostationary broadcast satellites as viewed from your (or your cable operator's) reception antenna. This will inevitably lead to a disruption of reception as the sun emits nasty broadband noise, and I even guess that digital TV aficionados will have even more fun with those distortions than those who still receive good old analogue signals.
Cable operator Cox Communications has issued a warning that says this spring's outages are scheduled to take place March 1-12 in California. In more northern parts of Europe, the troubles should start a week earlier or so. They won't last long, though. "The only thing you can do is be patient for a few minutes and it will come back on by itself," said Dennis Younker, Cox Communications headend supervisor. "Usually, these interruptions occur for a couple of minutes but can last up to 10 minutes."
All this applies to almost any region in the world, although at different times of the year. It's easy when you live in the equatorial regions. The Sun will distort reception at the time of the solstices, i.e. around March 21 and September 21. In spring, the effect will affect the Northern hemisphere of the Earth first, then cross the equator and move down South. In autumn, it's exactly the other way round, as you may have expected.
Cox noted that not only direct-to-home satellite households are affected. Some broadcasters, such as the main networks can avoid these outages by using more than one satellite. In the cable industry, however, that can't be done because so many channels are carried.
*PLUG! PLUG! PLUG!*
For a more detailed discussion, watch out for TELE-satellite 3 / 4 -- 98 which is to hit news-stands real soon. In that issue, John Locker tells you how you can profit from sun outages and check whether your motorised dish is properly aligned.
USELESS FACT: A rainbow can be seen only in the morning or late afternoon. It can occur only when the sun is 40 degrees or less above the horizon.
It's not that I feel urged to write about the following. But the military-industrial complex is a reality, not only in the USA of course. Even this so-called newsletter cannot ignore the fact that satellites and other hi-tech stuff can be used to kill people instead of just beaming fancy TV programmes to happy customers, or track stolen cars which is a bit closer to what GPS satellites normally do.
Anybody who remembers the 1991 Gulf War will also remember the hi-tech blurb about smart bombs etc. It served just one purpose: to distract from the fact that some 95 percent of bombs actually dropped on Iraq were by no means smart in any way but just good old explosives that go off wherever they're dropped, killing anybody who has the misfortune of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. By the way, the total amount of bombs dropped back in 1991 was 80 million kilograms.
Now, the U.S. military let it be known that new satellites launched over the past few years would make any bombing and missile strikes on Iraq much more accurate and safer for American pilots than during the 1991 Gulf War. Air Force Maj. Gen. Gerald Perryman told reporters that 24 new Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites would help guide aircraft, missiles and smart bombs to their targets at night and in foul weather.
However, the GPS system was operational back in 1991, albeit with less satellites -- the real problem was that the U.S. military did not have enough receivers that were capable of processing the high-precision signals that are intended for military use only. Reportedly, the jamming that keeps civilian users from accessing the high-precision signal had to be switched off, enabling the U.S. military to utilise commercial off-the-shelf receivers.
In the planned Gulf War II, the enhanced GPS system would allow pilots to drop glide bombs from more than 60 kilometres away, avoiding anti-aircraft missiles around heavily defended targets. The GPS system is now also used by Tomahawk cruise missiles fired by ships and air-launched cruise missiles.
If you want to find out the truth about "smart" or even satellite-guided weapons, you better not listen to the U.S. military but to independent sources such as the Federation of American Scientists which has published a new study on that issue on the World Wide Web.
Contrary to the official blurb that is carried on the mainstream media, few new types of weapons are available for use against Iraq. "Although a new air campaign will use a far higher proportion of smart weapons than were used during Desert Storm, the types of precision bombs and missiles will for the most part be those used in 1991," said John Pike, director of the Federation of American Scientists Space Policy Project. He added that while tens of thousands of '"smart weapons" are slated for delivery over the coming decade, no more than a few dozen are currently combat ready.
"The impending massive expansion of precision munition inventories is largely a product of the introduction of relatively inexpensive and highly accurate guidance systems incorporating receivers for the Navstar Global Positioning System (GPS)," Pike said. "These new munitions will provide accuracies comparable to Laser Guided Bombs, while overcoming adverse weather limitations, and eliminating the need for laser target designation systems."
Smart weapons: http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/smart/
Iraq-related resources: http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/ops/iraq.htm
Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
And you think you're so clever and classless and free
But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see
(John Lennon, "Working Class Hero")
In related news, there is ongoing speculation whether Russia could abandon the planned project of an international space station should the U.S. start a war against Iraq.
The Russians are expected to play a crucial role in the US$40-billion project. Most experts say the Russians will stick with it, even though Russia favours diplomacy instead of brute force in the Iraq issue. It's quite unclear how any rumours to the contrary came about as there have been no indications to abandon the project from the Russian side anyway.
Observers say that Russia will not only keep up with its obligations in the international space station project but will also keep providing commercial launch services, which are mostly marketed by joint ventures set up by Russian and Western companies. So far, these ventures are the only money-makers for Russia's cash-strapped space industry.
So cash-strapped indeed that others see the U.S. war against Iraq as a convenient reason to bail out of the international space station project. Reportedly, NASA developed a back-up plan in case the Russian Space Agency, for financial or other reasons, abandons the project.
USELESS FACT: During the time that the atomic bomb was being hatched by the United States at Los Alamos, New Mexico, applicants for routine jobs like janitor were disqualified if they could read. Illiteracy; in other words, was a job requirement. The reason: The authorities didn't want their trash or other papers read. [Does that apply to U.S. presidents, too? Wonder what Monica L. has to say about a certain U.S. president's other... hmm... let's call 'em assets.]
French government-owned aeronautics and defence group Aérospatiale is reorganising its business into nine main subsidiaries as part of the European restructuring of the sector, the group announced today.
The reorganisation is to be carried out in the second half of this year, the group added in a communiqué. Aérospatiale said it wanted to ""fully play its role as the French architect of construction of the European civil and military aeronautical and space industry."
No further details were available at time of writing.
USELESS FACT: Legend has it that after he was beheaded, St. Dennis, the patron saint of Paris, France, carried his head around and walked for quite some distance before finally setting it down.
...but were afraid to ask, of course. Isn't it strange? Reaction from readers always comes when I least expect it, for instance on yesterday's article "Microsoft discovered the vertical blank." Here's what to two readers had to say. Thank you for your comments, any corrections are always welcome by the way.
Just want to correct a glaring error in article today (Microsoft discover VBI)... Intel have for two years been pushing to market a system called 'Intercast'. This is widely in use in the USA (but virtually unknown to the public) on networks such as MTV/NBC/CNN/HGTV/QVC et alia.
Intercast is in use in Germany on ZDF pubcaster for about 2 hours per day. You do not need a box, you only need an Intercast PC Card or a Hauppauge Win-TV card with upgrade.
However, Intel have made a complete screw-up of launching this technology in Europe, Asia and the USA. As Intercast can only be used on analog TV signals, this limits its 'shelf-life' when most 'modern' broadcasters are looking to a digital future. Apart from that Intel have failed to persuade the Broadcast community in Europe that Intercast is a valuable 'value-added' tool. They have also failed to commit funds to promote the service to end-users and broadcasters alike.
Intel should stick to their chips and stay clear of the content distribution business in future. Intercast has probably cost them $50M++ and a lot of embarrassment.
Intel formed an 'open standards' organisation, see http//www.intercast.org, some time ago which has a long list of companies signed-up.
The Intel Intercast system uses a plug-in PC board which is on sale in America and Germany. The broadcaster uses a NT server plugged into the standard studio machine that normally puts the teletext into the blanking lines. The PC board allows you to watch TV on the PC and it stores the broadcast webpages on your hard disk. It tells you as each downloads. A second window on the PC screen can display those pages. It is possible to download a page related to the TV broadcast. Those pages are hyperlinked and so if you are watching a program and wish to pick-up background info you can use the page and links.
This board could be built into the TV. As such it probably competes against WebTV to some extent.
I do not know if the Microsoft version is the Intel version, but one should bear in mind the standard marketing method of releasing something similar to distract from the competition.... and if your product is worse all the better to ruin a new market with.
USELESS FACT: Mexico once had three presidents in one day. [Don't ask me for details but I can exclusively reveal that Germany once hat three Kaisers in one year -- that was in 1888.]
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