Copyright 1998, Quentin J Esrom Holdings Ltd (Bermuda)
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Wednesday, April 29, 1998
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It was noticed first by those who study Keplerian elements: Asiasat 3, rendered useless after ending up in the wrong orbit after launch last December, suddenly came alive and performed unusual manoeuvres.
Most notably, the satellite's apogee has steadily increased over the past few weeks. It is now reported to be some 150,000 kilometers. The moon is some 360,000 kilometers away as you may remember from the Apollo 11+ missions shown on TV some decades ago.
Rumours saying Asiasat's anomalies may in fact be a high-risk attempt to salvage the spacecraft were confirmed by Hughes Global Services (HGS.) Just in time for this issue, we received a press release that explains the extraordinary manoeuvre.
It says that Hughes engineers are completing a first-of-its-kind experimental mission that will swing a communications satellite around the moon in an attempt to reposition it to provide service on Earth.
Asiasat 3 has been stranded in a lower-than-planned orbit since its failed launch. During the last several weeks, Hughes controllers have fired the satellite's onboard rocket motor several times to raise it out of its elliptical orbit of 350 kilometers by 36,000 kilometers.
The final firing, on May 7, will send it on a nine-day round trip to the moon. If successful, the satellite is expected back in a circular orbit over the equator by the end of May. The satellite's orbital slot and new name are to be determined. At present, it is informally referred to as HGS-1.
The untried manoeuvre involves sending the spacecraft into a three-dimensional, figure-8 orbit around the moon, using lunar gravity to fling the satellite back into a usable Earth orbit. The salvage mission was devised by orbital analysts at Hughes Space and Communications Co., which built the HS 601HP-model spacecraft. This is also the first known commercial use of the moon and the first lunar mission attempted by a non-governmental entity.
There is a major drawback, however: Hughes engineers expect the lunar fly-by will use most of the approximately 1,700 kg of propellant onboard the satellite. Although it is not exactly known how much fuel will be consumed, the satellite's operational life (originally expected to span 15 years) will inevitably be shortened dramatically.
HGS takes over
After the launch failure the original owner of the spacecraft, Asia Satellite Telecommunications Co. Ltd. of Hong Kong, filed an insurance claim. The insurers declared the spacecraft a total loss for its original purposes. The satellite itself, equipped with 28 C-band and 16 Ku-band transponders, has not been damaged during the failed launch attempt.
Hughes Global Services Inc. (HGS) reached an agreement this month with the insurers to attempt the high-risk salvage mission, and HGS has obtained the title to the spacecraft.
Hughes has funded the salvage mission itself. If HGS-1 can be put into service, Hughes will share profits with the insurance underwriters. "It's a very powerful, capable satellite," said Ronald V. Swanson, HGS president, "and the potential applications are great if we can get it into a usable orbit. Keep in mind, however, that nothing like this has ever been done and it is still an experiment."
HGS is considering various revenue-generating uses for the satellite. Applications might include offering the U.S. government assured surge communications and augmentation in areas of insufficient capacity. Beyond this, the satellite may offer a means to affordably establish a satellite-communications infrastructure.
HGS was formed 10 months ago as a subsidiary of Hughes Space and Communications. It provides domestic and international government and public-sector agencies at all levels with "one-stop shopping" access to commercially available satellite communications.
By the way: Hughes in its press release reminded editors that HGS-1 was "strictly a communications satellite, so there are no cameras onboard."
Arianespace successfully launched Egypt's first telecommunications satellite, Nilesat 101, and the Japanese satellite BSAT-1b.
Flight 108 was carried out by an Ariane 44P, the version of the European launcher with four solid-propellant strap-on boosters. It used the 78th out of 116 Ariane 4 launchers ordered to date from the European space industry.
Nilesat 101 is the first satellite launched for a country on the African continent. This direct TV broadcast satellite (DBS) was designed and built for the Egyptian company Nilesat by Matra Marconi Space (France), under a turnkey contract. Weighing 1,840 kg at lift-off, it offers 18 Ku-band channels. Nilesat 101 will be located at 7 degrees West over Egypt and will provide direct TV broadcast services for a coverage zone stretching from Morocco to the Persian Gulf countries.
The second satellite in the new BSAT series, BSAT-1b, was built by Hughes Space & Communications of El Segundo, California. BSAT-1b will enable B-SAT to consolidate its coverage area and its service offerings. Weighing 1,230 kg at lift-off, it is equipped with eight Ku-band transponders, and will be positioned at 110 degrees East, over the island of Borneo.
The mission was the fourth of twelve planned Ariane launches for 1998. It was the 36th consecutive successful launch of an Ariane-4 rocket. The next Arianespace launch, Flight 109 is scheduled for late June/early July. Following Flight 108, Arianespace now has 39 satellites on order to be launched.
Japan should scrap its J-1 rocket unless costs are cut, an official report said.
"We are recommending that the J-1 rocket project by the National Space Development Agency (NASDA) be scrapped if its development costs cannot be lowered," said an official from Japan's Management and Coordination Agency.
The J-1, first launched in February 1996, was designed to put low-weight satellites into orbit. So far, it's still much more expensive than European or U.S. rockets. The first rocket cost US$37 million, the second one--due for launch in 2000--would still cost US$24 million. Comparable services offered by U.S. or European companies cost between US$9 million and US$18 million.
The Management and Coordination Agency said NASDA must come up with a response by September. If it continues with the project, it will be closely monitored.
According to Itar-Tass, Russia's Strategic Missile Forces were set to launch a military satellite early today.
A Proton rocket with a Kosmos satellite was to blast off the Baikonur launch site at 8.37 a.m. Moscow time. So far, there has been no conformation that the launch has actually taken place.
Satellites are running out of space, reports the BBC News Web Site.
This may not necessarily apply to geostationary satellites. Luxembourg's SES has proven that it is possible to keep half a dozen of those at virtually the same orbit slot.
The problem seems to be with the planned LEO systems and especially the sheer number of satellites involved. It seems, because the BBC article unfortunately isn't too elucidating.
Anyway, scientists were quoted as saying the booming number of satellites in space was leading to "traffic" congestion. Collisions could have a devastating effect as the resulting space debris would, in a chain effect, put other satellites at risk.
The article also says that the first satellite traffic control school will open in the United States next month.
The recent launch problems with a Delta II rocket will not delay the start of the Iridium satellite telecommunications service on September 23, officials were quoted as saying.
"The Delta II launch could happen any time within the next 60 days, and it wouldn't delay the start of commercial service," Iridium CEO Edward Staiano told the U.S. National Press Club.
Engineers still have major tasks ahead of them, he said, including the installation of the system's software, integration of the parts of the network, and setting up inter-satellite links.
The Delta II launch, originally scheduled for 26 April from Vandenberg Air Force Base, is now expected to take place within the next ten days. Around April 30, there will also be a launch of two more satellites aboard a special Iridium version of China's Chang Zheng (Long March) rocket.
Comsat International has been awarded a new telecommunications license in Brazil that will allow it to better serve the corporate communications market.
Comsat Brasil already operates approximately 3,000 sites throughout the country for private voice, data and multimedia communications. The new license allows Comsat Brasil to offer one-stop shopping by providing the satellite capacity, as well as equipment and network management services, to corporate customers with private networks.
In addition, Comsat Brasil will build and operate centrally located shared hubs. The hubs will handle a variety of customers' traffic to and from multiple small, inexpensive rooftop antennas called VSATs (Very Small Aperture Terminals) at remote customer sites. The new license also allows Comsat Brasil for the first time to provide its customers with international Internet connectivity.
The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has announced some of its inventions were now available for licensing.
Among them are trivial things such as "Acetylene and Phenylacetylene Terminated Poly(Arlyene Ether Benzimidazoles) CIP of 14965-2-CU" and "Blends of Polymers with Reactive and Non-Reactive Additives Having Lower Melt Viscosity."
However, NASA Case No. LAR 15538-1 sounds just revolutionary: it's a "Method and System for Producing Images of an Object." Well finally someone has invented the camera! It was about time, y'know.
For further information, contact the Office of the Patent Counsel, Langley Research Center, Mail Code 212, Hampton, VA 23681-0001; telephone +1-757-8649260.
Children's Television Workshop and Viacom Inc's Nickelodeon network are launching a new kid's educational channel in the USA, the companies said.
Noggin, a 24-hour cable and satellite network, will be aimed at children aged two to 14 and draw from the extensive libraries of both CTW ("Sesame Street") and Nickelodeon.
Financial terms of the 50-50 venture were not disclosed. The channel is slated for launch in January 1999.
by Piotr Niedorzecznosc
As already mentioned in part 98 of this series, the former Soviet Union also exported consumer electronics as well as other, utterly practical appliances.
Our Finland expert Andrew Coates explains those exports weren't too highly estimated by quoting a popular Finnish joke:
Q: What doesn't fit your arse and doesn't rattle?
A: A Russian-built arse rattle.
Things were even worse within the Soviet union which at that time also comprised Lithuania. Our correspondent Kestas Cerniauskas remembers there is a similar joke in his country that describes the Soviet era, or the "efficient times" as he ironically calls them:
Q: What is the name of a little black instrument, that
hummms and doesn't fit into butt-hole?
A: it is a "Little Black Instrument, That Hummms And Is Designed to Fit Into Butt-hole".
Recommended reading: Foreign Rectal Bodies. http://al.cs.engr.uky.edu/~anderson/humor/newbutt.html.
In the next part of this series, I will in detail describe the electric shaver Charkiv 15M and the Tatramat series of washing machines as well as the Minsk refrigerators.
President, CEO, Publisher, Senior Editor, Cleaner: Quentin J Esrom
Quentin J Esrom Holdings Ltd (Bermuda). All rights reserved.
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