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Projections indicate a US$20-US$25 billion market for commercial space launches over the next ten years. Quite logically, commercial companies no one has ever heard of before try to get a slice of that pie.
Platforms International Inc., a major developer of unmanned systems, has recently opened a new Space Division which is negotiating delivery of the hardware for the Space Division's initial project: the development of the SpaceRay commercial satellite launch vehicle.
The SpaceRay launch vehicle is designed to put satellites in orbit at half the cost of current competition. The vehicle, which I understand is targeting mainly the LEO launch business, is horizontally launched and recovered. By the way: to my knowledge, not any of the planned LEO systems has been able to secure complete financing yet.
Platforms International said its SpaceRay was way ahead of the pack because it uses entirely flight-proven, off-the-shelf hardware, without any need for technology breakthroughs or advances in the state of the art. The reusable vehicle will not depend on costly ground infrastructure and enable launch-on-demand and pay-on-launch services.
Platforms International said its system will reduce payload turnaround times from months to hours and allow for the broadest range of payload configurations.
Useless fact: On Pitcarn Island, it is a criminal offence to shout ' ship ahoy' when there is in fact no ship in sight.
Nowadays, everything is being commercialised. This will undoubtedly come to an end at some point in the future, just as the decadent Roman Empire finally inevitably had to decay.
But for the time being, the motto is "Make $$$ fast" -- even on the moon. A commercial effort is underway to retrieve samples from the moon and sell them.
"We will not go to the public asking them to send us into space. We will go into space first, then come to the public with something to offer: the productive utilisation of the vast resources of near-Earth space," says Denise Norris, CEO of Applied Space Resources, Inc. of the USA. Which of course means selling moon samples to millionaires. Norris puts it slightly differently: "Humankind will only benefit from the resources of space when they are developed by private enterprises such as ours." It's probably the company that benefits in the first place.
The company says a "mission to retrieve lunar soil and ice samples could be launched within six to twelve months after the initial mission at a cost well under US$100 million."
The ice bit is relatively new, of course, as NASA recently reported there's likely to be some ice on the moon [and that was a really big opportunity for all kinds of people asking for the moon to issue press releases.]
Anyway, ASR expects to launch its "Lunar Retriever" by September 2000 aboard a Lockheed-Martin Athena 2 rocket -- the same launcher used by NASA's Lunar Prospector. I guess moon rocks will soon afterwards be offered on QVC or similar TV channels.
Useless fact: The far side of the moon was first photographed by a Russian satellite in 1959.
Arabsat 1C has arrived at 55 degrees East. Under the new name of Insat 2DT, it will replace Insat 2D which failed last late year.
Insat-2D, launched just last June by an Ariane-4 rocket from French Guiana, suffered several power supply failures and had to be declared lost (Sat-ND, 7.1.98.)
India has bought Arabsat 1C, which was being kept as a back-up by Arabsat, for US$40 million. Equipped with 25 C-band transponders and one S-band transponder, it is expected to serve another five years, reported The Hindu.
The satellite is at present being controlled from Arabsat's control centre in Tunisia. Equipment is to be installed so that the Indian Master Control Facility (MFC) at Hassan in Karnataka, which currently oversees operations of the Insat satellites, will also be able to take over control of Insat-2DT in a few months' time.
An advanced system developed for the control of the next generation Arabsat-3 satellites had also been bought for the MCF.
At the same time, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has just completed a six-week programme for 13 Arabsat engineers. As part of the programme, the ISRO has developed a computer-based self-learning tutorial where trainees could use to learn the theory and concepts underlying satellite control. Any Internet browser can be used to run the tutorial. The tutorial software can be marketed as a CD-ROM. The ISRO has, however, not yet taken a decision in this regard. The ISRO was also providing training and consultancy to Koreans in establishing and running their satellite ground station facilities.
Useless fact: Snooker originated in India.
Teledesic LLC caused quite a bit of surprise when it announced that it had launched T1, the first of its planned 288-satellite constellation (Sat-ND, 26.02.98.)
Yours truly, by the way, was not surprised but simply thought he'd missed an earlier press release. No, not this time. There simply had been no such press release. In order to conceal the fact that there was a Teledesic satellite to be launched, the bird was disguised as BATSAT instead (Broadband Advanced Technology satellite.)
You may find all that strange but you'll have to get used to it. Teledesic will continue this silly kind of cloak and dagger game and is, for example, refusing to say whether contact with its T1 satellite has been established or not. In fact, it stated only that no updates on the T1 mission would be made public.
The reason Teledesic spokesman Roger Nyhus gave for that policy isn't too convincing: "We announce actions, not intentions. We're not out hyping things that we plan to do, but we announce them after we do them." As a matter of fact, the planned Teledesic system has been one of the most-hyped ones for years and has in the past, of course, announced quite a few of its intentions.
The view that Teledesic had a functioning PR department way before any functioning technology is not only supported by the fact that its main contractor Boeing was later single-handedly able to slash the giant number of satellites needed by two thirds. Another indication that Teledesic's technology is at best to be called 'work in progress' was given by Roger Nyhaus himself. T1, he admitted, is "not what our production satellites will look like or function like. Its purpose is to test principles and technologies that we may apply to the Teledesic network."
He said that "we are actively engaged in a variety of hardware experimental and software simulations for all aspects of the Teledesic system. This T1 satellite is simply one part of that ongoing effort."
Experiments to be conducted by T1 concern atmospheric drag, uplink and downlink power control, Ka-band atmospheric propagation delay, Global Positioning System (GPS) synchronisation, laser link stability, and attitude control. Apart from that, T1 offers two E1 [no, not T1] communications channels with 2 Gbps each.
Useless fact: Brain damage occurs at an internal temperature of 40 degrees Centigrade.
Asia Satellite Telecommunications Holdings Ltd has appointed Hughes Space and Communications International Inc to build a new satellite to replace AsiaSat 3, which failed to reach its proper orbit on a Proton launch.
The new AsiaSat 3S would be launched by a Russian Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in the first quarter of 1999, Asiasat said in a statement. The satellite operator added it had received the full insurance proceeds of US$200 million from the failed AsiaSat 3. The sum would be used to fund the procurement, launch and insurance of AsiaSat 3S.
Useless fact: Hulk Hogan's real name is Terry Bollea.
The "satellite pirate" that uses a channel of the digital DTH Alphastar, which is currently off air, to promote a new DTH service has been identified. While it's obviously no act real of real piracy, it's another headache for Alphastar officials.
A company by the name of SatCom Systems has been broadcasting a scrawl on transponder 27 of Telstar 5, asking Alphastar subscribers to fax personal information, such as an address and fax number, for "upcoming DTH service in the U.S." (Sat-ND, 4.3.98)
Alphastar subscribers will almost inevitably see the advertisement as is appears on the service's so-called home channel. SatCom Systems officials said they were doing nothing wrong. President Dave Chisholm said the company is "cultivating interest" in a DTH offering for its [unnamed] clients. He claimed to have received close to 12,000 responses so far, which is a truly remarkable number considering the fact that AlphaStar only had 60,000 subscribers in the U.S.
It's still a mystery what the exercise really is about. Chisholm was quoted as saying that the planned new service would appeal to niche audiences, and competing with larger DBS services wasn't part of the business plan.
Useless fact: A personal "first aid kit" was found in King Tut's tomb, which included a finger sling and bandages.
The Russian and U.S. intelligence services may swap satellite imagery in an effort to study global warming.
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) plans to offer the Russian side data of aerial photography of forests in Siberian northern areas in exchange for similar snapshots of forests in Alaska, taken by Russian intelligence services.
News agency Itar-Tass quoted Russian analysts as saying that this initiative of the American side is a result of the CIA being legally barred from making photographs of U.S. territory while it has at the same time become more active in examining ecological processes in the recent past.
Although there a some commercial high-resolution system planned, commercial satellite imagery nowadays offers generally just a resolution of ten meters. The real spy satellites are, in contrast, able to photograph plant's leaves and, as scientists hope, even monitor insect swarms.
Useless fact: The Rolling Stone's album 'Sticky Finger's has a zip on its sleeve.
British Culture Minister Chris Smith is in for another dispatch of porn cassettes. No, it's not that he ordered them, I guess.
Instead, he has to personally watch the... er... material, which can be expected to mainly consist of the display of such a harmless thing as heterosexual human intercourse, in his capacity as Britain's guardian of good taste and eternal moral values. [I hate to admit it, but an appalling fact is that you and me and Chris Smith and Tony Blair and almost everybody every other human being is a by-product of just that: heterosexual human intercourse.]
The UK government has for the seventh time been asked by the Independent Television Commission (ITC) to ban marketing of an adult satellite TV channel, in this case a channel called Eros. Run by a Florida-based company named European Entertainment TV, the channel is broadcast via a Russian satellite to a European audience. [And the cassettes mentioned contain, as you may have expected, programme samples.]
The Independent Television Commission (ITC) said the output of the channel "consists almost entirely of unacceptable pornography" and recommended a ban on its sale and marketing in the UK. My favourite news agency reported that "an ITC spokesperson said she [or he] had no idea how people subscribed to the channel in Britain."
May be, of course, the person wanted to say that she [or he] had no idea how many people subscribed to that channel. The question how to subscribe is readily answered: smart cards for viewing are usually available by mail order through adverts in listings magazines.
Another news agency noted that British authorities were powerless to block the channel as it is beamed into Britain from Russia but that they could cut off the cash supply by stopping marketing in the UK. "It will mean magazines cannot carry adverts and retailers cannot stock the cards, so it cuts off the supply of money," said a spokesman for the Department for Culture. [If satellite porn channels actually get their cash supply mainly from the UK, that would speak volumes anyway.]
The ITC has previously recommended bans on other adult channels including Red Hot Television, TV Erotica, Rendez Vous, Satisfaction Club Television and Eurotica Rendez Vous. The first five of them have been banned, and the Culture Department is still in the process of dealing with Eurotica RendezVous.
Useless fact: It was St. Tertullian [and not Chris Smith] who called called women "the devil's gateway ... on account of you, even the son of God had to die."
This one just has to follow. Singapore-based Interasia Television (ITV) said it would launch a new non-vulgar satellite channel on April 15 that would reflect Moslem values and be free of obscenity.
The Urdu language channel, devoted to entertainment programmes, is to focus on southeast Asia and Pakistan. "We want to promote our own Moslem culture and values through this channel. There will be no obscenity or vulgar programmes," ITV chief executive Haroon Leghari announced.
He told a news conference in Karachi that most satellite channels were dominated by Western culture and values while "ITV is basically a Pakistani channel which will reflect culture and values of South East Asian people in general and Pakistan in particular."
The channel will use uplinking facilities of S.T. Teleport in Singapore to broadcast to 43 countries via Asiasat 1. Urdu, Pakistan's national language, was spoken and understood by more than a billion people in the region, Leghari said.
Useless fact: During a orchidectomy, a man has a testicle removed.
TCI Satellite Entertainment, Inc. (TSAT) announced that its shareholders approved a plan for the restructuring of direct broadcast satellite provider Primestar, currently operated as a partnership, into a new, national company called Primestar, Inc.
Formerly part of Tele-Communications, Inc., TSAT became a separate public company through a spin off in December 1996. Under the approved structure, TSAT will contribute over 850,000 digital satellite customers and its partnership interest into newly-created, privately-held Primestar, Inc. As part of the transaction Primestar will assume all of the liabilities of TSAT.
The company will hold an approximate 36-percent interest in Primestar, Inc. and will retain its interests in its wholly-owned subsidiary Tempo Satellite, Inc. (Tempo) (including its high power satellite assets and licenses for frequencies at both the 119 degrees West and the 166 degrees West orbital locations).
The partners' approximate equity ownership interest in the newly-consolidated Primestar, Inc. subject to the closing adjustment, are as follows:
GE (GE Americom Communications) 5 percent
Useless fact: Slugs can fertilize their own eggs.
Digital TV may indeed damage your health. Reportedly, terrestrial test transmissions had to be scrapped in Dallas, Texas following problems with some hospital equipment.
About a dozen machines at the Baylor University Medical Center that monitor freshly operated patients' cardiac activity failed when local TV station WFAA launched its digital terrestrial TV tests.
They seem to use the same frequency as WFAA, which was allocated to the station by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC.) As the problem may affect hospitals all over the USA, the FCC, broadcasters and the manufacturer of the affected cardiac monitors have taken up talks to resolve the problem.
Patients, by the way, were at no time in any danger.
Useless fact: There are more cows in Nebraska than humans.
by Dr Sarmaz
Italian television group Mediaset, controlled by media mogul Silvio Berlusconi's Fininvest group, has denied Fininvest was planning to sell its Mediaset shares to Keith Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.
Mediaset managing director Adriano Galliano told correspondents that the contacts with News Corp recently "concerned possible forms of collaboration or production, but not the possibility of a sale of Fininvest's stake (50.58 percent) in Mediaset".
Nonetheless, Mediaset shares rose nearly four percent in Milan last Thursday after the company said talks with News Corp Ltd about a technology and programming alliance were proceeding.
Analysts reportedly welcomed Mediaset's move to cement international alliances, since the company's plans for expansion into digital television and telecommunications in Italy are making slow progress.
Saudi Prince Al-Waleed, who owns stakes in both Mediaset and News Corp, told Il Mondo "With Murdoch and Mediaset we would do a lot of things together in media and telecommunications."
Useless fact: Sophia Loren's sister was once married to the son of the Italian dictator, Mussolini.
Keith Rupert Murdoch (KRM) knows how mass media work. It should've been no surprise to him to find himself the target of a press campaign after his publishing firm, HarperCollins, refused to publish a book by former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten .
Murdoch was accused of censorship to protect his extensive media interests in China because of Patten's strong criticism of Beijing in the book (Sat-ND, 1./4.3.98.)
HarperCollins finally was left no choice but to apologise to Patten. In a statement, company lawyers said that both parties "have agreed that it should publicly be recorded that HarperCollins have unreservedly apologised for and withdrawn any suggestion that Chris Patten's book 'East and West' was rejected for not being up to professional standards or being too 'boring.' They accept that these allegations are untrue and ought never to have been made." Both parties have also reached an out-of-court settlement.
In a personal statement, KRM added that "there are no winners or losers in the current controversy; mistakes have been made and we all share the responsibility."
Papers not owned by KRM were jubilant Saturday over what they perceived as a humiliating defeat of the media magnate. The Daily Telegraph noted that the lawyers' statement was "an almost unique document in the history of the world -- an apology from Rupert Murdoch." The Guardian called the statement a "humiliating public climbdown", and claimed that HarperCollins had agreed to pay Patten the remainder of his advance as compensation.
KRM-owned Times, however, claimed Patten would receive only a "modest financial sum" in compensation. It doesn't matter anyway -- his book has had an enormous amount of publicity and will undoubtedly sell much better than it would have had, should KRM have decided to publish without any ado.
To give you an idea of what has been written about KRM recently in the UK: The Guardian claimed, rather ironically of course, that KRM actually was a closet communist, citing those well-known details about him keeping a bust of Lenin in his room when he was an Oxford undergraduate in the 1950s. On the other hand, it's by no means to be taken as an irony when The Guardian stated that "Murdoch has never pretended to believe in freedom of speech, so he can scarcely be accused of hypocrisy. ...
"It seems entirely logical that a bullying monopolist such as Murdoch should be attracted to dictators. The only surprise is that so many apparently intelligent authors on his payroll have taken so long to notice what sort of chap he is. If you snuggle up with a boa constrictor, do you really expect him to respect your human rights?
Useless fact: Lenin died January 21, 1924, suffering from a degenerative brain disorder. At the time of his death his brain was a quarter of its normal size.
In Sat-ND, 1.3.98, I asked "To what extent do the Chinese control Western media?"
"When Walt Disney Co. was producing a movie on the Dalai Lama, the Chinese ministry of Radio, Film and Television let it be known that was strictly opposed (Sat-ND, 26.11.96.) The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader and former ruler of Tibet which was occupied by China in 1950."
Ken Donow informed me that "Disney did make the picture about the Dalai Lama and they did distribute it in the West."
And now, here's the result. Beijing later announced an end to movie imports from Disney and to co-production activities.
Useless fact: Between 1931 and 1969 Walt Disney collected thirty-five Oscars.
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