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An Atlas 2 rocket has launched a U.S. Navy communications satellite that will relay spy photos and intelligence reports and strike orders to U.S. troops all over the world. [One of my readers might call it 'conventional wisdom' to ask why there are U.S. troops all over the world, so I won't ask.]
The 3.2-tonnes satellite, built by Hughes Space and Communications, will be moved to a geostationary orbit to serve the Pacific Ocean region and is expected to be operational by June.
The ultrahigh-frequency satellite is the eighth in a series of ten (according to AP) or the first of three (said my favourite news agency.) Actually, it is the eighth in the Ultra-High Frequency Follow-On series (UFO, cf. Sat-ND, 10.3.98) and first in the fleet to have a Global Broadcast Service (GBS) communications system that will speed up the transmission of data to U.S. military forces equipped with small receiving terminals. The GBS technology is based on the same technology that enables commercial companies, Hughes included, to deliver satellite television programming directly to homes [hmm... dual use... military-industrial complex... okay, just more conventional wisdom.]
The Pentagon is paying Hughes US$150 million to outfit three Navy communications satellites with GBS payloads. The next two satellites, which are slated to blast off from Cape Canaveral this fall and next spring, will operate above the Atlantic and Indian oceans, respectively.
Extremely useless fact: The Atlas rocket left a spiralling thread of rocket exhaust in the brilliant blue sky as it arced toward orbit, reported my favourite news agency.
U.S. company Loral Space & Communications Ltd signed a long-term satellite launching services agreement with China's Great Wall Industry Corp. [Conventional wisdom tells us that China, according to Western values, is a country not only ruled by dictators but also in possession of mass-destruction weapons. Hmm... sounds familiar.]
The deal was widely seen as a vote of confidence for the rather ill-fated Chinese launcher Chang Zheng (Long March,) but as a matter of fact the contract calls for just five launches for Loral between March 1998 and March 2002 on the Chang Zheng 3B, the most powerful Chinese launcher.
"The overall design has received verification, the technology is mature and the rocket has already become the main force in the Long March series," said news agency Xinhua.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but experience from the past shows that China offers launches for up to 50 percent less than Western competitors.
Useless fact: Methane gas can often be seen bubbling up from the bottom of ponds. It is produced by the decomposition of dead plants and animals in the mud.
Conventional wisdom tells us that in a free market economy everybody can offer whatever services he or she wants to offer. Unfortunately, that does not apply to Russia which is bound by a agreement with the U.S. to offer only a limited number of commercial satellite launches.
Russia intends to increase the number of commercial launchings of foreign satellites from 23 to 32 in the period until the year 2000 and then demand that any quota allotted to Russia be abolished, the director of the Russian Space Agency Yuri Koptev was quoted as saying by news agency Itar-Tass.
He said that this was the goal Russia will press ahead at the next session of the Gore-Chernomyrdin commission scheduled for next summer.
"We shall press ahead for an increase in the number of apportioned quotas. Russia has to win the right to carry out 30-32 commercial launchings instead of 23 authorised now," Koptev said. "In the next stage, quoting commercial launchings after the year 2000 should be totally abolished."
Koptev refused any linkage of Russia's commercial satellite launch efforts to the country's business in Iran (Sat-ND, 10.3.98.) Although not directly linked to commercial satellite launches, the U.S. have reportedly put the construction of a nuclear power station in Bushehr, Iran, on the agenda which they fear might trigger proliferation of military nuclear technologies.
Useless fact: The far side of the moon was first photographed by a Russian satellite in 1959.
The Japanese cabinet approved a bill that paves the way for state compensation for damage resulting from failed rocket launches by the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) under contract with private businesses.
Currently, NASDA is insured for up to ¥20 billion in damage during H-2 rocket launches, the government pays for damage beyond that amount -- but not for damage caused by commercial launches.
The legislation aims to revise current law so that the government can pay partial compensation for damage resulting from accidents, such as a rocket colliding with an aeroplane or falling onto a private house. The bill would
require private businesses to sign insurance contracts for NASDA rocket launches;
NASDA to pay compensation for damage beyond insurance money;
and ban NASDA from launching rockets for commercial purposes without insurance contracts.
However, there's only one case known in the history of commercial satellite launches where compensation was paid not only to the operator of a lost satellite. That was, of course, the Chinese Intelsat-708 massacre in February 1996 where, according to official figures, six people got killed and some 60 were injured. The victims reportedly received a compensation totalling US$1.7 million.
Useless fact: 98 percent of Japanese are cremated.
NASDA has begun lifting its experimental Comets/Kakehashi satellite to a higher orbit using the spacecraft's on-board thrusters, news agency Kyodo reported.
The engine was fired for 90 seconds, resulting in an increase of perigee from 250 to 390 kilometers. The apogee stayed at 1,860 km. Until May, there are seven more similar manoeuvres planned, bringing Kakehashi into a 500 by 17,700 km orbit.
Kakehashi failed to enter geostationary orbit after the second stage of the H-2 rocket carrying failed after its launch last February.
Useless fact: Kakehashi means "bridge" or "intermediate."
Want to call Iridium?
The Motorola-led consortium has been assigned a country code by the International Telecommunications Union, giving it national status in the telecommunications industry: +8816. The low-Earth orbit satellite system is expected to become operational by September.
Useless fact: Around The World there are 460 million cars and 800 million bicycles.
Inmarsat, the international mobile telecommunications satellite organisation, said it had reached agreement on restructuring into a commercial concern and subsequent privatisation (see also Sat-ND, 14.3.98.)
London-based Inmarsat said its governing council last week agreed plans which should see the restructuring completed by the start of 1999 with an initial public share offer in a further two years.
A full package including amendments to Inmarsat's convention and operating agreement, along with other documentation on the structure and framework of the implementation schedule, will be presented to the Inmarsat Assembly of Parties next month for review and adoption.
Useless fact: The Pacific Ocean fills nearly a complete hemisphere of the Earth's surface.
by Dr Sarmaz
The European Commission will soon rule on British Interactive Broadcasting (BIB), a joint venture partly owned by Keith Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB and British Telecommunications (BT,) the largest pay-TV operator and telecommunications company in Britain respectively.
A EU Commission official said on Monday that "there will be a decision in a couple of weeks." He added that it was not sure at this stage whether the deal would be cleared under European antitrust rules. "The parties still have to come back on the questions we've asked them in February."
Among the questions raised by the EU commission, acting as the Union's antitrust watchdog, are issues such as the subsidisation of BIB's set-top decoder. It would benefit a separate digital TV platform to be launched by BSkyB, thus giving it an unfair advantage. Another problem is that BT would have no incentive to upgrade its terrestrial phone network as the interactive services will be delivered mainly by satellite. The upgrading of BT's network, however, is seen as essential to allow other companies to offer competing services.
Useless fact: Spread out, the walls of the human intestines would cover an area of about one hundred square meters.
As to the alleged American bashing in this so-called newsletter is concerned, I received one comment so far. Hine Clayton B. writes:
"Actually, until I saw you email address, it didn't occur to me that you weren't based in the US, and it certainly never occurred to me that you were American bashing. I read a very positive article in a local paper about GoreSat last weekend and was wondering what I was missing. Pretty pictures of the Earth with an attractive backdrop seems to be something that should be way down on our wish list."
Especially when they are adorned with McDonald's ad banners, I'd like to add. I can have those without GoreSat anyway ;-)
I should mention that I got Mike (who complained about American bashing initially) rather wrong in the first place. He also wrote, and I admit to have omitted that in the last issue, that
"In my mind, bashing big targets [such as the US of A, I guess, or rather its government -- Ed.] is like being a devotee of conventional wisdom, which when espoused, sounds good but usually is off the mark. I think they call that sophistic rhetoric. Conventional wisdom, like big target bashing, is a clear indication to perceptive people that not a lot of thinking is going on in the brain of the person talking."
I guess that was his point. So much for my brain anyway, or what's left of it after all these years ;-) I know from his e-mail that he does mean in it the nicest possible way. Hey, no irony!
Anyway, I have over the past few days received some very encouraging e-mails -- maybe as a reaction to that issue or to my weekend posting of the Sat-ND housekeeping notes. Thank you very much; I may not be able to answer each and every message.
But don't get me wrong: I really, and once more there's no irony whatsoever involved, have every respect for anybody who unsubscribes because he or she doesn't like my style. I'd have no problems at all with going out for a beer with anybody who criticises Sat-ND or even unsubscribes.
What I don't need, actually, are those bloody lamerz who have [as could be expected] started once again to send me "unsubscribe" or even "subscribe" messages. All of those are as usually cheerfully ignored, of course.
Useless fact: 25 percent of Americans think that Sherlock Holmes is a real person.
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