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I still admit that Sat-ND generally is too negative, and most of my comments aren't just agonising, abusive and abhorrent but probably even the main cause for acid indigestion among Internet users.
So, once a year on April 1, there's an issue that contains only good news as well as some really strange bits... Enjoy!
Speaking of good news, this may have been the last Sat-ND! The last one for the next ten days or so, that is, because I'm going on holiday in the Caribbean ;-)
A Boeing Delta II has successfully launched five more Iridium satellites.
Iridium LLC said in a press release that it further advanced towards becoming the first global wireless telephone company with services slated for launch on September 23. The number of operational satellites in orbit is now 56, or 80 percent of the 66 launched.
It was the eighth launch by a Boeing Delta II for Motorola, prime contractor and manufacturer of the satellite for the Iridium System.
The next seven Iridium satellites will, how exciting, be placed into orbit on a Russian Proton rocket on April 2. This launch is the last of three scheduled Iridium System Proton launches to take place from the Republic of Kazakhstan.
The Proton's flight will be the first one after a failure during the launch of the Chinese satellite Asiasat-3 in December 1997. The rocket will be equipped with the same booster stage that is thought to have failed during the Asiasat-3 launch.
Do you like the Incredible Iridium launches as much as I do? Then why not call the Iridium Launch Hotline:
U.S. (Toll Free): +1.888.9LA.UNCH (952.8624)
International (Toll): +1.202.4LA.UNCH (452.8624)
Finally, things will be heating up in orbit soon. You may still place your bets which satellite is zapped next as solar activity steadily increases.
This happens every eleven years by the way -- but eleven years ago, space wasn't that crowded. The solar storms that are expected may also affect all kinds of electrical equipment down on Earth, especially that which has appeared over the past few years. Experts promise not only "fried satellites" but also trouble with cellular telephones and cable television transmissions, and massive power blackouts. "The common citizen can expect some frustrating outages," said Steve Pearson, NASA space environment effects manager.
There are some indications that this time we're in for a spectacular peak of the solar-storm cycle, expected in March 2000. But solar activity has already dramatically increased last month. Forecasters predict active regions to appear on the sun within a couple months and series of solar events.
"You can expect fireworks anywhere from Christmas of 1999 and 2000 for the next three years," said Donald Trombino, curator of solar astronomy at the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach. "We're welcoming in the millennium with a bang."
Telesat Canada has ordered the world's most powerful commercial satellite from Hughes Space and Communications International (HSCI) Inc., a 15-kilowatt HS 702 model spacecraft called Anik F1.
The satellite will carry 84 active transponders to provide general telecommunications services for North and South America, from Telesat's operating slot of 107.3 degrees West longitude. Hughes will deliver the satellite in the first quarter of 2000.
To generate such high power, the two solar wings employ high-efficiency, dual-junction gallium arsenide solar cells. The payload consists of 48 Ku-band transponders and 36 in C-band, a 75 percent increase in capacity over Hughes' popular HS 601 series. To provide 15 years of service, Anik F carries Hughes' xenon ion propulsion system (XIPS) for all on-orbit manoeuvring. HSCI also will provide satellite control software for Telesat's ground stations in Allan Park, Ontario, and Edmonton, Alberta.
Six HS 702 satellites have been ordered so far, the first of which will be launched in the fourth quarter of this year.
Anik F1 will be the ninth satellite developed by Hughes for Telesat, Canada's national satellite communications company.
Hughes built the Anik A series of three HS 333 model satellites, the first of which was launched Nov. 9, 1972. These carried 12 transponders each in C-band only, and had just 300 watts of power. They were followed 10 years later by the Anik C and D series, which were HS 376 models built by Hughes and Spar Aerospace Ltd. of Toronto. The three Anik C spacecraft each carried 16 transponders in Ku-band only, and had 900 watts. The two Anik D satellites carried 24 transponders in C-band and generated 1,000 watts.
U.S. Vice President Al Gore does not only invent new satellites, he also improves existing ones.
The U.S. Military's Global Positioning System (GPS) is also used for non-military applications all over the world. However, up to now civil users cannot use the system's full accuracy. This will change, says Gore. What's even better: the improved accuracy will be introduced in 2005, so you can take your time, watch TV a bit and don't have to run to the next shop to buy a new GPS receiver immediately.
The reason for the delay is that the U.S. of A. are unselfish enough to actually set up a second GPS system comprising 24 satellites for world-wide non-military use. Two signals will be offered in the L1 and L2 band respectively instead of just one today. A frequency band for a proposed third civil GPS signal still has to be determined. The additional signals will improve the accuracy of GPS receivers by enabling them to make more effective corrections for atmospheric signal distortions.
By the way: U.S. president Bill Clinton reportedly wouldn't comment on positioning systems and positions in general.
The 22nd meeting of the Intelsat Assembly of Parties in an historic action, unanimously approved the creation of an independent spin-off company, temporarily called New Skies Satellites, N.V.
There will be a complete and clear structural separation between New Skies and Intelsat. New Skies will be subject to the regulatory bodies of every country in which it may operate and will have no privileges or immunities. New Skies will be incorporated in The Netherlands. It will focus on the video direct-to-home marketplace, while Intelsat will concentrate on offering voice and data services over its remaining 18 satellites.
The following satellites are to be transferred from Intelsat to New Skies:
Intelsat 513, 177 degrees W
Intelsat 703, 57 degrees E
Intelsat 803, 21.5 degrees W
Intelsat 806, 40,5 degrees W
Intelsat K, 21.5 degrees W
K-TV, 95 degrees E
The satellites have a net book value of about US$700 million, said Andrew Browne, Intelsat's chief financial officer. In addition, the Intelsat Ka-band frequency registrations associated with the 95 degrees E and 40.5 degrees W orbital locations will be transferred to New Skies.
Some details on this historic feat:
Intelsat ownership in New Skies will be set at 10 percent and the ownership will be held in a non-voting trust;
the remaining INC shares will be initially held by Intelsat's 142 backers in proportion to their ownership of Intelsat;
the maximum level of individual investor ownership in New Skies will initially be set at 17 percent;
the initial shareholder ownership in New Skies will be diluted over time, initially through an IPO (Initial Public Offering) which is expected in 1999;
meaningful and effective safeguards were also adopted to assure fair competition.
Intelsat owns and operates a global communications satellite system. With 1997 revenues of more than US$960 million, the Intelsat system provides voice/data and video services to over 200 countries and territories via satellite.
The British Broadcasting Corporation last Friday began
transmitting an FM service in Rwanda.
BBC World Service programmes will be broadcast in English, French, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi and Swahili. Radio France Internationale had also applied for an FM frequency but had been rejected for political reasons.
French satellite television company TPS plans to launch a
24-hour sports news channel called Infosport by the summer.
Managing Director Cyrille du Peloux said the new channel would complement several French-language satellite sports channels such as Eurosport, Multivision and Superfoot '98.
Home & Garden Television has entered into a
programming agreement with NBC Asia.
It will bring a selection of HGTV's original programming to more than 7 million homes throughout Asia and the Middle East. Beginning April 6, the NBC Asia channel will air two hours of branded HGTV programming each weekday and one hour on weekends.
The Disney Channel's first spin-off cable network, Toon
Disney, will launch on April 18, with at least 3 million
The network will consist exclusively of cartoons from the more than 2,000 animated TV episodes in the Disney library. Anne Sweeney, president of Toon Disney/Disney Channel, said she doesn't rule out buying cartoons from outside companies, but the plan is to recycle the Disney inventory. Toon Disney will initially carry no commercials ans share about 50% of its regularly scheduled series with the Disney Channel.
U.S. President Bill Clinton announced plans to launch a
new African service of the Voice of America radio station to promote
democracy and respect for human rights.
Clinton said the station would be known as Radio Democracy for Africa. The new service will transmit 22-1/2 hours of programmes a week in nine languages aimed at 19 countries. Fantastic! As we all know, no country but the U.S. can teach other countries democracy, or rather, their version of it.
What a good day to start a new service!
Japan's NHK has launched a new two-channel digital service on Panamsat 2 (169 degrees east longitude), eventually replacing the analogue service that most people interested in such programming have been watching for the last two years or so. The relevant specs are: 4035MHz, horizontal polarity, FEC 3/4, SR 26470. For those viewers undecided if they should go and buy a digital receiver, the analogue service will be moved (in fact it's there now) to 4053 MHz, vertical polarity, and run in parallel to the digital service until July 30, when it will presumably go to programme heaven. Although largely irrelevant because private individuals cant subscribe, the second channel is called NHK World Premium and will feature all the good programming that you can't get on the (free) NHK world service mentioned above. (Garry Cratt)
Starving artists all over the world were recently saved by Macrovision Corp. and its digital copy protection systems for digital signals.
The problem is well-known: greedy TV viewers order pay-per-view (PPV) movies and record them on a video cassette. Even more appallingly, they do that with regular pay-TV programming as well. Obviously, this will sooner or later lead to the collapse of the whole entertainment industry as we know it, and to millions more of unemployed.
This disgusting abuse of pay-per-view material has to be stopped, and it will be stopped. Japan's PerfecTV! is the first digital video network operator anywhere in the world to commercially apply Macrovision's copy protection technology to programs. Currently, thirteen PerfecTV! PPV and pay-TV channels are copy protected. Expect other digital services to follow this example soon.
"Unauthorised copying of PPV programmes seems like a harmless activity, but it actually deprives copyright owners and system operators of a significant amount of revenue, especially since a VHS copy of a non-copy protected digital broadcast is commercial quality," commented Masao Kumei, Managing Director of Macrovision Japan.
Actually it's just the other way round, digital transmissions are by no means better than VHS quality, but what a nice way to admit that! And isn't it just great that not only artists won't have to starve? Existing video cassette copy protection systems have created a whole new industry, offering so-called "video enhancers." There will be a new market for them, too.
NII Norsat International Inc. announced further success in China with an order from Shantou Radio and TV Equipment Company for the purchase of Norsat's proprietary N-Code II system for its Pay-TV system.
Shantou Radio and TV Equipment Company (Shantou Equipment), an electronics manufacturer, located in Guangdong Province, adjacent to Hong Kong, has signed a contract to purchase an initial 50,000 units of Norsat's proprietary digital chip sets and video encoders. The new contract is valued at approximately US$1.5 million -- with the first scheduled delivery starting in May 1998. The Norsat system will replace Shantou Cable TV's existing, heavily pirated, Pay TV system.
Due to the gradual relaxation of government controls in China, the Pay TV market is forecast to grow to be a multi-billion dollar hardware market over the next few years. Norsat, with the increasing help of its partners in China, believes it will achieve significant market share for its N-Code II system.
British Culture Secretary Chris Smith once again implicitly criticised a U.S. plan to switch off analogue television in 2006, and said it was far too early to decide on a date for such a move in Britain.
He had reportedly been pressed by some members of a parliamentary committee to follow the example of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission by setting a cut-off date in order to encourage the development of digital television technology.
"There is a real danger that we take decisions driven by the technology rather than driven by what consumers actually want," Mr Smith was quoted as saying. [This is a new, unexpectedly consumer-friendly side of Mr Smith. Some consumers also want pay-TV porn channels on satellite, but Mr Smith keeps banning the sale of subscriptions anyway.]
"When, over the first year or two of [terrestrial] digital transmission ... we see exactly how the initial steps of the market operate, then I think we will be in a much better position to make that judgement," he added.
Finnish telecommunications equipment manufacturer Nokia said that its business for digital set-top decoders for cable and satellite television was on track to sell a million units this year.
"We delivered almost one million set-top boxes last year, and we look forward to delivering a million more this year," Nokia spokeswoman Marja-Terttu Verho was quoted as saying.
She dismissed a report in a Finnish newspaper which suggested that Nokia could be unable to deliver a planned 1.5 million decoders to German media groups Kirch and Bertelsmann because of EU objections to an alliance between the two. "The report doesn't take into account the fact that we have already delivered well over half that amount last year," Verho said.
Which is extremely interesting as there are, of course, far less than 750,000 digital pay-TV subscribers in Germany. It is known, however, that Nokia's d-box, exclusively sold in Germany, has attracted many buyers from as far as Russia because of its undocumented features that allow reception of non-Pay TV channels as well -- especially as the d-box was initially subsidised by Kirch.
The European Commission is expected to reach a decision on the plans of Bertelsmann and Kirch in May or June. Both companies plan to combine their digital TV operations and offer the programming package through Nokia's set-top boxes, in effect creating a digital TV monopoly.
As I promised you earlier, here's the answer to the question whether GOD appeared in a Dallas, Texas suburb as promised by a Taiwanese cult leader.
No, he or she didn't. What else did you expect? Cult leader Chen had good news anyway."You," he told the media, "are proof of what we believe. Only God could bring us so much attention."
I guess predicting the landing of small, green aliens would even have attracted a bit more attention, but never mind.
Meanwhile, it has appeared to the mass media that what the Christian church teaches is not so different, expect they don't give a fixed date about the coming of GOD and don't claim he will come accompanied by a fleet of flying saucers.
Says Rebekah Miles, who teaches Christian ethics at Texas Christian University's Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth: "Most Christians, particularly in the South [of the U.S.], have heard this all their life. But they never get much press."
Chen expressed his hope "that the mass media will preach the gospel all over the world." The gospel of a GOD that can't even keep simple appointments like that? Come on. I'd rather expect little green Martians to pop up in time.
Good news even about El Niño. The weather phenomenon temporarily caused the day to grow longer by slowing down the Earth's rotation, said Dr. John Gipson of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
Longer days! Image what you could with all that additional time... The effect was confirmed by measurements from the Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) network, a global array of radio telescopes.
However, the effect is not only of a temporary nature, it's still just too weak, although I really like the thought of sleeping 6/10,000 of a second (0.6 milliseconds) longer in the morning. Back in the golden days of 1982, El Niño even had a peak effect of almost an entire millisecond per day!
An international team of NASA and university researchers has found the first direct evidence of a phenomenon predicted 80 years ago using Einstein's theory of general relativity -- that the Earth is dragging space and time around itself as it rotates.
Researchers believe they have detected the effect by precisely measuring shifts in the orbits of two Earth-orbiting laser-ranging satellites, the Laser Geodynamics Satellite I (LAGEOS I), a NASA spacecraft, and LAGEOS II, a joint NASA/Italian Space Agency (ASI) spacecraft. The research is the first direct measurement of a bizarre effect called "frame dragging."
General relativity predicts that massive rotating objects should drag space-time around themselves as they rotate. Experts say that this also affects the orbits of satellites near the Earth, apart from the well-know factors. However, the relativistic effect is about ten million times smaller than classical Newtonian disturbances.
Dr. Erricos Pavlis of the Joint Center for Earth System Technology, a research collaboration between NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, and the University of Maryland at Baltimore County: "We found that the plane of the orbits of LAGEOS I and II were shifted about six feet (two meters) per year in the direction of the Earth's rotation."
LAGEOS II, launched in 1992, and its predecessor, LAGEOS I, launched in 1976, are passive satellites dedicated exclusively to laser ranging, which involves sending laser pulses to the satellite from ranging stations on Earth and then recording the round-trip travel time. Given the well-known value for the speed of light, this measurement enables scientists to determine precisely the distances between laser ranging stations on Earth and the satellite.
Experts said that the effect could also be commercially exploited, offering psychedelic experiences to persons if they were rotating fast enough -- without any trendy chemical amusement aids such as LSD. The problem seems to be that the rotation frequency needed to deform time and space for a human observer would mash his or her brain. A special branch set up by NASA to exploit commercial applications for 'frame dragging' is currently working on the problem. It is expected that the currently evolving space tourism business might offer a gravity-free solution without any side-effects.
German underwear designer "Bruno Banani" is to send his garments to the Russian Mir orbital station, so [male] cosmonauts can test the underpants' resistance in "extreme conditions."
That's at least what he director of the firm said, whose name happens to be Wolfgang Jassner and not "Bruno Banani".
The garments will be sent up on May 5 for a series of tests to see whether they are tough and stretchy enough to be certified as "space-proof", Jassner said. Which is not true, of course, it's just a very clumsy trick to attract attention. So what... it worked!
Cosmonauts were already using Banani underwear for training in the Mir flight simulator at the Star City space centre near Moscow, Jassner said.
This story even appeared in my local newspaper, accompanied by a photograph of Mr Jessner presenting a piece of underwear. Frankly, I'd rather run about in a paper bag than to wear that kinda stuff. Maybe I'd change my mind if they published some pictures of Russian cosmonauts in "Bruno Banani" underwear, but even Russia's cash-strapped space programme seems not to have sunk that deep.
"Bruno Banani" was founded in 1993 at Mittelbach near Chemnitz, the former Karl-Marx-Stadt in the former East Germany. I've never heard of them before, but news agencies say the company had attracted attention by its creativeness and now rivals big names like Hugo Boss and Calvin Klein on the German market [to be more precise: they go for morons that are prepared to pay the equivalent of US$30 just for a single pair of underpants.]
My explanation is simpler: some guys -- for some strange reason -- seem to like to wear underpants whose brand name sounds just like 'banana' or 'Banane' in German. Don't ask me why!
More German underwear companies are set to take to space as well. Bobby Banger of East Berlin will reportedly provide U.S. space shuttle crews with proper garments. Future Chinese astronauts are expected to be equipped by Willy Weeny of Würzburg.
by Dr Sarmaz
Britain's Independent Television Commission (ITC) unveiled long-awaited plans to reform pay TV.
The ITC criticised the industry practice known as bundling that requires viewers to subscribe to basic pay-TV channels in order to receive premium services like sports and movies. BSkyB obliges subscribers to buy its basic 30-channel package before receiving premium services.
Without mentioning BSkyB or any other pay-TV company by name, the ITC said the industry's current bundling practices were anti-competitive. "It can and does restrict viewer choice. We are particularly concerned with the size of the basic bundle of channels on offer to most subscribers," chairman Robin Biggam told a news conference.
Instead, the ITC proposed that viewers be allowed to upgrade to premium channels from any basic package. When asked about the impact on BSkyB, Biggam said the proposals would likely lead to changes in BSkyB's pricing structure. The size of Sky's basic bundle will have to be broken down, he added. "You will be able to buy through to any of the premium channels through any of the smaller bundles."
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