Kistler Woomera, Kistler Aerospace Corporation's wholly-owned subsidiary, and Australia's Commonwealth signed an agreement that establishes Woomera, South Australia as the world's first commercial space launch site.
The Woomera option was chosen for its existing infrastructure and light population. "We overfly more sheep than people," Kistler chief executive George Mueller told reporters. The Operations Agreement authorises U.S. company Kistler to develop the spaceport, allows plans for licensing, and sets the terms for launches of its fully reusable launch vehicle--the Kistler K-1--at the Woomera facilities.
Test flights of Kistler's reusable vehicles are due to begin later this year while the first commercial flight may take as soon as 1999. The company has one firm contract for 1999 with Global Star and was talking to all other industry players.
"Today's agreement with the Commonwealth shows significant progress toward our mission of providing the world's first reusable launch vehicle," said Robert Wang, chairman of Kistler Aerospace. The Woomera project has already received the required environmental approvals, and it is anticipated that the remaining project approvals (e.g. a launch license) will be received before construction begins.
Using the cost savings achievable through reusability, Kistler hopes to transform the commercial launch industry by offering low cost, reliable access to space. Kistler plans to provide launch services to the roughly 1,700 new commercial telecommunications satellites forecast over the next decade.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard said the agreement paves the way for an initial investment of A$50 million (US$32 million) in the project, which would ultimately generate up to A$2.9 billion (US$1.88 billion) over the next 12 years with the possible launch of one A$100-million (US$65 million) rocket "every two weeks," the prime minister said in a statement.
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There's a side effect of the ongoing low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite craze that nobody had anticipated that notwithstanding will stir confusion all around the world.
A report in today's Washington Post says the effect has been christened "Iridium flares," named after the first LEO constellation. It consists of only 66 active satellites and even isn't complete yet, so just imagine what will happen if all the other LEO plans become reality--including Teledesic's 288-satellite system. There may be a spectacular light show up in the sky every night.
What happens is simply that aluminium surface of the Iridium satellites, which orbit the Earth at an altitude of roughly 650 kilometers, reflect the sunlight. This can be seen with the naked eye, especially after local sunset and before local sunrise. Reportedly, the Iridium flares (which are reported to be very bright) have sparked off several asteroid reports and, what else, UFO spottings.
The Washington Post offers details on how to find Iridium flares at
The German Space Operations Centre (GSOC) offers a service that allows you to enter the name of your town. You will presented with the best time and sky position to spot an Iridium satellite [although I'm a bit pissed off by the fact that they give U.S. citizens a special treatment.
So, will future generations of LEO satellites be painted black to avoid confusion down on the ground? Probably not; it is quite likely that the aluminium outfit is part of the satellites' thermal control system.
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Last year when they were expected, the Leonid meteoroids didn't turn up. Now, scientists expect the most severe meteor shower in three decades for next November--or November 1999 latest.
The same subject already hit the headlines last May (Sat-ND, 20.5.1997.) The Leonids shower, consisting of small particles from the trail of the Tempel-Tuttle comet, passes Earth in a recurring pattern--every 33 years. It was last observed in 1966.
The Leonids are therefore of some concern for any kind of satellite operator; scientific, military or commercial. The reason is quite simple: 33 years ago, there were almost no satellites up there at all. Nowadays there are hundreds of them.
Although those meteoroids are tiny, it's their speed that makes them dangerous. The particles could poke holes in satellite's solar panels, pit lenses, blast reflective coating off mirrors, short out electronics with a burst of electromagnetic energy, even re-programme computers, said Edward Tagliaferri, a consultant to the Aerospace Corp., a non-profit organisation that sponsored a two-day conference on the subject.
Satellite operators may temporarily be able to turn their spacecraft away from the particle stream in order to avoid collisions, but not for too long. Scientific spacecraft may be switched off for a certain time, but this is impossible with military as well as with commercial satellites. [Example for Western Europe: Can you imagine a crawl on your TV screen that says "Owing to the Leonids meteoroids shower, all Astra satellites will be turned off for the next two weeks starting next Monday"? Not really, I suppose.] The main difference is that military satellites are better shielded against any impact than their commercial counterparts.
By the way: just like Iridium flares, the showers will be visible at night--at least in certain regions. Watch out for them in the Western Pacific and Eastern Asia this November. The Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central Asia will get their light show in November 1999.
Aerospace, in case you'd like to know, operates a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). The corporation's primary customer is the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) of U.S. Air Force Materiel Command.
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DMX Inc. announced the launch of Hot Tracks, its brand-new format combining today's chart-toppers with the best of the '80s and '90s.
I normally couldn't care less unless DMX in its press release said it was "the most widely available digital music service in the world". Unfortunately, it's not available in Europe anymore, solely owing to amateurish management by TCI Music Inc.
The European service was scrapped last summer following [if I remember correctly] less than two years of operation shortly after TCI Music left DMX Europe. The whole operation folded soon afterwards.
In my personal opinion, a company such as TCI Music that is not prepared to make long-time investments in markets such as Europe should not swank about global availability. Pathetic! Makes me wanna puke my guts out! And anyway, DMX Europe still owes me part of the subscription fee, which unfortunately I had agreed to pay one year in advance [but try to get money back from a bankrupt company--ha, ha! No way.]
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CD Radio Inc. and Dick Brescia Associates/Radio Spirits Inc. have entered into an agreement in which CD Radio will carry the Classic Radio 24-hour service on one of its broadcast channels.
CD Radio, as you may know, holds one of two U.S. satellite radio broadcast licenses. The company is building a satellite-to-car 50 channel radio system for the broadcast of music and other programming to motorists throughout the United States.
But what is Classic radio--classical music? Nope. Under terms of the agreement, CD Radio will make segments of the Classic Radio exclusive library of old-time radio programs, such as "The Shadow," "Dragnet," "Boston Blackie," "Gunsmoke," "Burns and Allen," "Jack Benny," "The Green Hornet," Orson Welles, and many others, available to its potential subscribers.
"The Classic Radio library literally houses the golden age of radio, which we are very pleased to carry," said David Margolese, CD Radio's chairman and chief executive.
Ah, yes... now we know why all that trendy new digital stuff is usually referred to as "new media."
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Macrovision Corporation said in a press release that PolyGram Video signed a multi-year agreement to copy protect 100% of their videocassette and Digital Versatile [or Video] Disk (DVD) titles world-wide.
Although PolyGram Video has used the Macrovision copy protection process in the past on videocassettes released in the UK, this is the first time PolyGram Video will be copy protecting their videocassette and DVD product in Asia, Europe and North America.
Industry statistics indicate that over 80% of all U.S. households own at least one VCR and over 45% own two or more. This means over 30 million households are equipped to make back-to-back copies of pre-recorded videocassettes which by the way is perfectly legal if you buy a video cassette and make a personal security copy of it.
DVD also represents a potential threat to content owners, because without copy protection, consumers can make commercial-quality videocassette copies of DVD originals using just one VCR, Macrovision claimed. However, it seems there is no common DVD standard yet; but there will be not only copy protection mechanisms but also "country codes" that will make, for instance, a DVD bought legally in the U.S. useless in Europe or Asia because the player won't accept it. Once again, to make it perfectly clear: there are no illegal actions involved. Buy a DVD in the U.S. while on holiday, go back to Europe or Asia or wherever, and the only thing that's left to do with it is to throw it away.
Now, on top of this there will also be a copy protection even though, may I repeat this, it is perfectly legal to make a copy of any DVD you buy for personal back-up purposes.
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If you thought it couldn't get any worse, you're wrong. The music industry urged the European Union to protect the US$40 billion sector world-wide against what they called digital piracy.
This was to be expected as there in the past few years two accidents happened. The first accident is called the Internet, the second one is called CD recorder.
To start with the latter one: there are CD recorders available that look just a like CD player and fit nicely into your Hi-Fi rack. They won't accept any of those recordable CD-ROMs which are, at least in Germany, available for not much more than US$1. They will operate only with special recordable CD-ROMs that are much more expensive because you have to pay a fee that allows you to record copyrighted material.
Strange anyway, as personal backup copies of audio CDs are legal without any fee. Even more strange that you even have to pay when you record your own music with an audio CD recorder.
Anyway, it doesn't really matter too much as a CD recorder for your puter, in combination with a decent sound card, can do anything (and much more) than what a Hi-Fi recorder can do. The difference is that it does not care at all for any copyright issues. It will make a CD from about everything--computer programmes, audio CDs, or even music downloaded from the Internet.
This means, of course, red alert for the industry. "In the next few years new on-line digital technologies, including the Internet and other forms of digital distribution, will transform the way in which recorded music is delivered," the European branch of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) said in a statement.
"Without adequate protection, owners of the rights to music will be unable to distribute music digitally and will be prey to unregulated digital copying and piracy," it added. Guess what? Those capitalists now even want to refuse you to make personal copies of anything you legally bought. Too late! You can do it with a CD recorder fit into your computer today, and that won't change because the DVD [with all their protection mechanisms] is not likely to replace the good old CD.
The IFPI particularly objected to excluding private digital copying from the proposed copyright rules, reported my favourite news agency.
However, they'd better come up with some new ideas that would would replace the ancient copyright idea with something else that takes the existence of the Internet and CD recorders into account.
In case you don't like the policy of the IFPI, I suggest you refrain from wasting your money on any products sold by their members which comprise EMI, PolyGram, Sony Music, Bertelsmann's BMG, Seagram's Universal Music International and Time Warner Inc's Warner Music.
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Help! People still send me sex jokes. Stop it, will ya? I just don't care about those silly interhuman activities or whatever you wanna call 'em. Make it silly, just as this very good one sent in by Ivan Penev:
A big, strong man runs along the railway platform and shouts at the train: "Who is Henry?, Who is Henry"...
Nobody is turning out, so he continues to shout: "Who is Henry?, Who is Henry"...
At the last wagon, a little, feeble man cries out: "I am Henry, what do you want?"
The strong man grabs him, shakes him, beats him fiercely and throws him on the ground. After he disappears, the little man gets up on his shaky feet and smiles at the crowd: "Ha, ha, how I lied to him. My name is Bill."
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