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Russia's MiG aerospace firm is developing a new version of the advanced MiG-31 fighter plane to launch lightweight satellites into low-earth orbit, reported business daily Kommersant.
The systems works much like that used by Orbital Sciences to launch its Pegasus and Taurus rockets from an airplane in flight.
The adapted MiG-31s will fire rockets carrying the satellites into space, and MiG expects to get backing for the project from the Russian Space Agency next week, Belosvet said.
"Marketing research shows that at the turn of the century most of the satellites launched worldwide will be small, weighing 40-50 kilograms (90-110 pounds). We plan to capture part of that market with our launch system," MiG deputy director Anatoly Belosvet was quoted as saying.
He added that Kazakhstan was also involved in the funding and development work, and tests could be carried out there (possibly from the country's Baikonur cosmodrome.)
Useless fact: There are 100 different species of large trees in a single acre of rainforest.
The Federal government of Australia has granted Kistler Aerospace Corp. environmental approval to establish a launch site in Woomera, South Australia.
Woomera is the location where the company plans to conduct test flights of the Kistler K-1, which according to a company press release is the world's first fully reusable launch vehicle, later this year.
The reusable design of the K-1 was a key factor in granting environmental approval. According to John Moore, Minister for Industry, Science and Tourism, the reusable design, combined with the K-1's use of fuels similar to that in jet aircraft, provides a way to put large numbers of satellites into orbit with minimal impact on the environment.
Other conditions for Kistler launch approval include meeting launch-licensing requirements that are being developed by the Department of Industry, Science and Tourism. The Department will be responsible for regulating Kistler's space launch activities and ensuring that commercial space launches are in line with the Commonwealth's international obligations.
Useless fact: 86 percent of fish landings in 1989 were marine.
Steve Bennett, better known as "The Rocket Man," lost UKP70,000 and two years of work when his Starchaser 3 vehicle crashed spectacularly on a military range near Okehampton in England where the launch attempt took place.
The 200-kilo, eleven-motor Starchaser 3 was said to be the world's most sophisticated private civilian rocket. Instead of performing the expected 34-seconds flight that would have lifted it to an altitude of some five kilometers before safely returning on parachutes, it rose just some 70 meters, plunged back to the ground and exploded some 400 meters away from the launch site.
"Something went wrong with the ignition system," the Rocket Man was quoted as saying. "I was trying to light seven motors together, but a couple ignited before the others."
Original plans called for the Starchaser 3 to be retrieved and refurbished, which would have cost UKP10,000, and finally use it for putting a satellite into low-Earth orbit a few years from now [although this will at that time probably be stone age technology for LEO launches.]
The Rocket Man will "pick up the pieces and get on with it," which in this case means he has to raise up to UKP40,000 which are necessary to build Starchaser 3A. He threatened "we could repeat the exercise before the end of the year and prove it is successful."
Useless fact: Gorillas often sleep for up to fourteen hours a day.
China plans to launch seven satellites in 1998, the Guangming Daily said.
They include including four Iridium satellites, a Chinasat-8 satellite, an European-made Sinosat-1 and an indigenous satellite, the newspaper said. The satellites would be launched by [various models of the] Chinese-made Chang Zheng (Long March) rockets.
Useless fact: The Piraroa Indians of Venezuela roast tarantulas over an open fire and eat them. They taste like nuts.
Arianespace has been chosen to launch the PAS-6B direct broadcast satellite for PanAmSat Corporation of the United States in this year's fourth quarter.
Arianespace signed a contract with PanAmSat Corporation to launch the PAS-6B at the end 1998 by an Ariane 4 from the Guiana Space Centre at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
PAS-6B is the ninth satellite that PanAmSat has entrusted directly to the European launcher. Ariane rockets will launch two more PanAmSat satellites in 1998 and mid-1999.
Useless fact: The average American eats about 54 kg of sugar per year which represents up to 20 percent of caloric intake. (Aris Stathakis)
But what is PAS-6B anyway? PanAmSat Corporation announced that the company will launch a new satellite to serve as the long-term transmission platform for NetSat Servicos Ltda, the Brazilian direct-to-home (DTH) television service, and for Sky's "Multi-Country Platform," the DTH platform serving the balance of Latin America (other than Mexico).
NetSat and the Multi-Country Platform are part of the Sky Latin America alliance, PanAmSat said in a press release. The satellite, called PAS-6B, will replace the service currently offered on the PAS-6 satellite.
"After extensive analysis, we determined that launching a new satellite is the best way to ensure long-term continuity of service," said Frederick A. Landman, president and chief executive officer of PanAmSat. "PAS-6B will enable Sky to deliver hundreds of digital DTH television channels in South America to the year 2014 and beyond."
The current PAS-6 satellite, built by Space Systems/Loral, was launched on August 8, 1997, and commenced service from 43 degrees West on September 19, 1997. The satellite has experienced several circuit failures in the spacecraft's solar arrays, which have required PanAmSat to forego use of some transponders initially and will require the company to turn off additional transponders in later years.
The new satellite, an HS 601HP, will carry a 7-kilowatt payload consisting of 32 active Ku-band transponders powered by a combination of 105-watt and 140-watt travelling wave-tube amplifiers.
The satellite will carry Hughes' xenon ion propulsion system (XIPS.) The solar arrays on PAS-6B will generate more than 8 kilowatts of power through the use of dual-junction gallium arsenide solar cells, which provide a significant increase in power over silicon cells. PAS-6B is designed to provide a minimum of 15 years of service from its geostationary position of 43 degrees West longitude.
Useless fact: The tea bag was invented in America in 1908 by tea merchant John Sullivan who distributed his tea samples in hand-sewn cloth sacks. Customers found they could put the bags directly into tea pots which made removing the leaves from the pot easier. (Aris Stathakis)
The Russian Central Bank's satellite Kupon "can hardly ever be used for its target purpose," an expert with the Lavochkin Science and Production Association, the satellite's manufacturer, told news agency Itar-Tass.
He said the satellite's onboard frequency detector caused a computer failure, adding that "we have manufactured over 100 satellites and all of them functioned successfully for six-seven years," he said.
An ad hoc commission, including aerospace industry experts and specialists from the Central Bank, has meanwhile been set up to examine whether the geostationary Kupon can still be used in some way. If not, the 2.6-tonnes spacecraft will be the latest addition to the ever-growing mass of space junk. It will according to the manufacturer nonetheless be closely monitored o prevent a possible fall on the ground, Itar-Tass said.
Useless fact: There are only 7 possible opening moves in draughts.
China will not only [as recently reported] put men in space and land explorers on the moon. According to news agency Xinhua, the country also is conducting feasibility studies for lunar and Mars probes.
"China will actively participate in deep space exploration during the 21st century, and Chinese scientists expand in-depth research concerning various scientific objectives and the engineering feasibility of DSE," Yuan Jiajun, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Space Technology, told an international meeting of space scientists.
Yuan said current research includes the Space Telescope used to observe solar activity and the proposal for introducing a Near Earth Dual-Satellite to supplement the Cluster-2 solar research satellites planned by the European Space Agency.
Yuan noted that major achievements China's space industry has scored over the past 30-odd years of development include successfully placing communications, meteorological, remote sensing and retrievable satellites into orbit. "The successful efforts have established a solid base for China to join in deep space exploration."
As far as the moon is concerned, China has adopted a two-step strategy: "The first step, between 2000-2010, will include missions to thoroughly map the topography of the Moon, explore the internal structure of the lunar planet, establish a base for installing instruments, conducting scientific experiments, and developing human life support and energy production systems.
"The second, from 2011-2030, will involve establishing a manned lunar base which can be used for scientific research, processing materials, transportation and mining."
Useless fact: Goats produce cashmere.
An independent panel has warned the U.S. Department of Defense against a hasty, full-blown revival of former president Ronald McDonald's Star Wars program.
As frequently mentioned, Star Wars is by no means dead. According to today's Washington Post, almost US$4 billion are spent annually on anti-missile weapons development and research alone. A report, submitted by the panel to the Pentagon earlier this month, warned against a "rush to failure," saying that decisions by officials to accept abbreviated timetables and minimal numbers of flight tests in developing the antimissile systems have raised the risk of more failures, delays and cost overruns.
A spokesman for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organisation, which is the new label for Star Wars/SDI, said there was little prospect of slowing the programmes in line with the panel's recommendations because the schedule for developing the systems was dictated by political leaders and military commanders concerned about the spread of ballistic missiles and the vulnerability of American troops and U.S. territory to attack.
Useless fact: Less than 30 percent of the coral reefs in Japan, Philippines and Costa Rica are in good or excellent condition.
Three U.S. government agencies have teamed up to assess the feasibility of a giant world-wide satellite-based surveillance and reconnaissance system consisting of 24 to 48 spacecraft, reported Defense News.
U.S. troops would be able to direct any of the the satellites to take radar images of a specific area of interest and retrieve the resulting information within 15 minutes, David Whelon, tactical technology director for the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was quoted as saying.
Apart from detecting missile launch sites almost in co-operation with specialised missile warning satellites, the proposed satellite fleet could also gather intelligence for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) which is in charge of the country's spy satellites. The third party involved in this venture is the U.S. Air Force.
The Pentagon is preparing a US$592-million technology demonstration project called Discover comprising two satellites to be launched in 2003, Defense News reported. It is expected that a decision on how to proceed from there will not be taken before 2005.
Useless fact: Fitchburg, Massachusetts is the second hilliest city in the US.
After 18 months of talks, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and U.S. media group Discovery clinched a long-awaited deal to create a range of global television channels, including the BBC's own U.S. network.
"BBC and Discovery aim to become the world's leading force in factual networks, operating in every corner of the globe," BBC Director-General John Birt told a news conference. He added that "the partnership will help the BBC become the world's leading global broadcaster, building on international success and reputation in radio of the BBC World Service." [Who said that only Americans can be megalomaniac ;-]
The alliance will cover three main areas -- the co-production of BBC factual programmes, the creation of global TV channels, and the launch of BBC America. Discovery plans to invest about US$100 million over four years in BBC America, which will be launched on March 29 and broadcast British TV hits as well as BBC news.
The complete deal, which includes also TV channels such as Animal Planet and People and Arts, calls for an investment of US$565 million over the next ten years. The BBC will retain editorial control over all co-productions to "ensure that the accepted BBC quality standards and values will be applied to all programmes."
However, Auntie Beeb's foray into global commercial television sparked some criticism from aficionados as well as from regular BBC bashers. David Elstein, chief executive of Britain's commercial TV Channel 5, believes that the "whole sort of public services remit is called into question" by the BBC's increasing commercialisation. "The commercial nature puts into question the whole issue of the license fee."
BBC supporters, on the other hand, fear that Discovery's rather simple-minded approach to history and politics will spread to the Beeb.
Useless fact: There is no place in the British Isles where you can be more than 128 km from the sea.
The Kenyan Nation newspaper group plans to set up a network of TV and FM radio channels that also cover neighbouring countries in East Africa. Those plans were dealt a setback as the Kenyan government has revoked the license.
A statement by information and broadcasting minister Joseph Nyaga said the government had written to the African Television Network (EATN) chairman Sam Shollei, cancelling the licence because of a dispute between him and businessman partner Ahmed Rashid Jibril.
"The government has decided, following a dispute that has been brought to its attention by one of the EATN directors, regarding the sale of shares of the company, to cancel the TV and radio licence issued to yourselves," Nyaga said in a letter dated March 18. The government letter also instructed the Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Corporation to withhold the release of the frequencies allocated to EATN until otherwise advised.
The Nation group described the government's cancellation of the licence in order to deny it entry into electronic broadcasting as "incomprehensible and unreasonable.
"The decision is dishonest because the grounds given for cancellation -- a dispute over company ownership -- have nothing to do with the government and were not invoked during the very long-running quarrel over ownership of the Kenya Television Network (KTN)," Nation said.
The new television station was to start broadcasting in Nairobi in the second half of this year, and would then be extended on both VHF and UHF frequencies throughout East African countries such as Uganda and to Tanzania.
Useless fact: Fourteen percent of the one million citizens of Nairobi, Kenya carry the AIDS virus. Some 20 percent of the Kenyan military is infected.
Loral Space & Communications has completed the acquisition of Orion Network Systems, Inc., through an exchange of Loral common stock in a transaction valued at approximately US$479 million.
Loral Orion, based in Rockville, USA, is an international satellite communications company that provides high-speed Internet connections for corporations and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and private, multimedia network communications services directly to multinational businesses via small receiving antennas. It also transmits video communications for television and other programme distribution services.
Loral Orion owns and operates the Orion 1 satellite, placed in service in January 1995, covering the European, transatlantic and U.S. markets, and has two additional satellites under construction. Orion's transponder capacity will increase substantially with the launch of Orion 3, scheduled for service in January 1999, covering the Asia Pacific region, and Orion 2, which will serve the Americas and Europe beginning in June 1999. The three-satellite constellation will be capable of providing services to over 85% of the world's population by 1999. In addition, Orion has authorisation for valuable domestic and international orbital slots, including certain slots for the provision of Ka-band service.
Useless fact: As my IAP uses Orion 1 for almost every non-domestic connection, this so-called newsletter actually comes to you via that satellite as it is distributed via a server located in the U.S.
Alberto Monteiro has found some information about Brazilian satellites at http://www.embratel.net.br/tecnologias/satelite/meccel/m_princ.html. It's in Portuguese, but English and Spanish versions are planned.
Merlin Communications International, a private company that now operates the transmitters of the BBC World Service, will celebrate its first anniversary with what it called a 24-Hour Global Interactive Multimedia Festival on short-wave and satellite radio next Saturday, March 28. Satellite listeners in Europe can get an analogue feed on Astra, transponder 50 (CNBC), 7.38/7.56 MHz. The same is available in digital on Sirius 2, 5 degrees East, 12.226 GHz h via the Merlin Multiplex.
Useless fact: The subject of the first printed book in England was Chess.
by Dr Sarmaz
Keith Rupert Murdoch has for the second time given up trying to buy a part of Italian media mogul Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset.
Accompanied by ongoing rumours and speculation, talks finally stalled when it became clear that KRM and Sua Emittenza could not agree on the price. Those rumours seem to have caused the problem in the first place: since the negotiations started (which were never officially confirmed,) Mediaset shares have soared and were traded at almost a third above the original price in expectation of Mediaset becoming the nucleus of a pan-European pay-TV venture dominated by KRM.
Corriere della Sera newspaper said that KRM had made an offer US$4 billion dollars (other sources: US$3.2 billion) to buy Berlusconi's 50.6 percent stake in Mediaset. The paper said it was a "take it or leave it" offer and was made at a meeting at Berlusconi's private home in Arcore. Dottore Berlusconi, the richest man in Italy and a convicted criminal who never served his 16-months sentence, preferred to leave it rather than to take it.
Of course, he doesn't need the money anyway. Forbes Magazine recently valued Berlusconi as worth US$4.9 billion. He may lose some money by refusing KRM's offer, but may regain the approval of the Italian public -- which is especially important as Berlusconi also acts as populist politician. In that role, he was critisised for using his three TV channels for his party's purposes. Selling them to a U.S. media baron for a few billion bucks would almost certainly gained him even worse publicity.
After the talks with KRM, he can of course pose as the man who saved Italian media from being sold off to the U.S. One of his own channels, Retequattro, was rather jubilant after KRM's retreat: "Berlusconi is too much in love with this company," commented newscaster Emelio Fede. "I am glad to hear that, for the time being at least, Berlusconi is continuing to put off the sale because he is too much in love with Italy, Mediaset and the thousands of people who have worked alongside him to make it grow," he said.
As far as Berlusconi's criminal record is concerned: he still faces three separate trials charges of establishing illegal slush funds, bribing tax inspectors and illegally channelling funds to politicians. But don't expect him to go to prison.
Useless fact: While living in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1866-67, Thomas Edison developed a device to electrocute cockroaches.
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