Sat-ND, 10.05.1998

Sat-ND, 10.05.1998

Sat-ND, 10.05.98
Smooth operator

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U.S. spy satellite launched
Bertelsmann to give up on digital TV deal?
Advanced uses for tampons


U.S. spy satellite launched

A Lockheed Martin-built Titan IV B/Centaur rocket has launched a spy satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) from Cape Canaveral Air Station.

During countdown, several problems occurred, such as technical trouble at a tracking station, high upper-level winds, and even some ships in the launch danger area in the Atlantic Ocean, east of Cape Canaveral.

It was the first of three Titan IV launches from Cape Canaveral planned for this year and the 24th overall. The Titan IV, the U.S.' largest, most powerful expendable launch vehicle, is built by Lockheed Martin Astronautics in Denver. It is capable of boosting more than 10 tonnes into low-Earth orbit or more than 6 tons into geosynchronous orbit.

The payload

Experts said the satellite launched was equipped with a giant antenna the size of a football [no, not soccer] field that would allow the NRO to eavesdrop on radio communications on the ground. The spacecraft is expected to be put into a geostationary orbit.

It will be most likely not only be used to "listen in on communications in hostile areas, such as the Middle East and North Korea," as Aviation Week and Space Technology's space technology editor Craig Covault was quoted as saying. This may not even be the most important part of the satellite's mission: In the post-cold war era, industrial espionage has become increasingly important--as well as the U.S.' capability of monitoring important, even government communications in non-hostile countries.

Military space writer Roger Guillemette was quoted as saying it was the second satellite of its kind, with the first one launched in 1995. Weighing some 4.5 tonnes, it was "so sensitive that it can detect transmissions from a radio the size of a wristwatch or a very small cell phone."

Which may be true, of course, but it's not that easy. Even an antenna with a 160-meter diameter has a beam width of more than 1 degree at frequencies up to 200 MHz. As a consequence, the area covered on the ground has a diameter of some 150 km at that frequency.

SIGINT performance: http://www.fas.org/spp/military/program/sigint/perform.htm

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Bertelsmann to give up on digital TV deal?

In the past few days, the ongoing saga of digital TV in Germany has taken yet another turn. The planned merger of the country's media giants Bertelsmann and Kirch is in danger of being banned by the EU Commission. While Kirch officials still display optimism, several Bertelsmann managers openly say they "expect a negative decision"--and seem to be quite happy with that.

Observers suggested that Bertelsmann might not be too unhappy with such a ban as their former rival Kirch had announced to scrap his digital TV service DF1 in that case--a move that is widely expected to also affect Kirch's free-to-air TV and other activities.

Manfred Harnischfeger, head of Bertelsmann public relations, told German television: "We expect the EU Commission to make a negative decision;" a statement that of course can be interpreted in two ways.

A Bertelsmann spokesman meanwhile dismissed a report in news magazine Der Spiegel that the proposed tie-up had already collapsed, saying in effect that the company would wait for the EU commission to make their verdict by June 3.

Date in Berlin

At separate meetings last Friday with EU Commissioner Karel van Miert in Berlin, both companies reportedly did not put forward any new compromise proposals. While the reclusive Kirch appeared in person to talk to van Miert, Bertelsmann sent only secondary figures.

Interestingly, in the past it was only Kirch who made concessions: he offered to sell 25 percent of his film stock and later also put 25 percent of BetaResearch on the block--the company that controls the DF1 decoder technology which is also be used for the combined Kirch/Bertelsmann service.

Under a separate agreement that is also under scrutiny by the EU commission, BetaResearch is to be jointly held by Kirch, Bertelsmann and German cable giant Deutsche Telekom.

Bertelsmann later stated the company could not afford to make any further concessions to convince the EU Commission. However, the deal in its present form is widely expected to be blocked by the Commission which fears it will set up a long-lasting digital TV monopoly.


The most interesting question meanwhile seems to be "What will happen to Kirch's media empire after June 3," especially as he has secured several billion-dollar output deals with Hollywood studios and also accumulated sports rights, e.g. the Football [soccer] World Championships 2002 and 2006.

An answer may come from industry sources who said that Bertelsmann prior to the merger agreement secured 75 percent of Kirch's film rights in a separate deal which is not subject to the EU Commission's probe.

That, of course, would also ease Kirch's financial situation who reportedly had troubles recently in obtaining yet another huge loan. As reported earlier, Kirch officials denied that the group was in any financial troubles.


True or not, it seems that the German TV scene is in for major changes after June 3. Whatever the outcome will be, the winner will be Bertelsmann, already the dominant player not only in Germany but present in many other European countries through its UFA-CLT joint venture with Luxembourg's CLT.

That joint venture, strangely enough, has passed a EU Commission investigation without any further ado. Some still see Kirch in a future alliance with Keith Rupert Murdoch, but even that would need the EU's blessings. It may work, though, as Murdoch plays no role in Germany at all. His only TV investment so far is a 49.9-percent stake in a totally insignificant free-to-air channel called Vox, which ironically was set up by Bertelsmann.

KRM is to deliver a keynote address to a media forum in Cologne, Germany, on June 14. Just a coincidence, of course.

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Advanced uses for tampons

Yet another family-entertainment compatible joke, this one was sent in by Patrick MacKinnon quite a while ago. Cute! (By the way: it may actually take quite a while before your joke actually appears here. Remember: no explicit sexual activities, please, and no computer or Internet humour that's already available on hundreds of Web pages. Cheers!)

Two little boys go into the grocery store. One is nine, one is four. The nine year old grabs a box of tampons from the shelf and carries it to the register for check-out. The cashier asks "Oh, these must be for your mom, huh?"

The nine year old replies "Nope, not for my mom."

Without thinking, the cashier responded "Well, they must be for your sister then?"

The nine year old quipped, "Nope, not for my sister either."

The cashier had now become curious. "Oh. Not for your mom and not for your sister, who are they for?"

The nine year old says "They're for my four-year old little brother."

The cashier is surprised "Your four-year old little brother??"

The nine year old explains: "Well yeah, they say on TV if you wear one of these you can swim or ride a bike and my little brother can't do either of them!"

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Copyright 1998, Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved. Peter C Klanowski shall not be liable for errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.
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