Sat-ND, 20.05.1998

Sat-ND, 20.05.1998

Sat-ND, 20.05.98
Devil's haircut

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Over the next few weeks Sat-ND will be published sporadically rather than daily


Galaxy IV loses orientation, creates turmoil
Austar's independence and "new flexibility"
CNBC leaves Hotbird


Galaxy IV loses orientation, creates turmoil

Galaxy IV, part of PanAmSat's global fleet and located at 99 degrees West, experienced an anomaly and went of out service yesterday. Apart from television feeds, about 90 percent of the U.S. pager networks were affected. At time of writing, several services have already been restored using other PanAmSat satellites. Replacement Ku-band services are offered on the nearby Galaxy III-R. In addition, Galaxy VI will within the next six days be transferred from 74 to 99 degrees West to replace Galaxy IV's C-band services.

How did Galaxy IV become "a floating hulk of useless circuits and transponders," as my favourite news agency put it? According to a PanAmSat statement, this has happened

"At approximately 6:00 p.m. Eastern time [2200 UTC] on May 19, the Galaxy IV satellite experienced an anomaly within its on-board spacecraft control processor (SCP), the primary system responsible for pointing the spacecraft relative to earth. The automatic switch to a backup unit failed as well. As a result of the SCP anomalies, the satellite began to rotate, thereby losing its fixed orientation. While PanAmSat is able to receive telemetry from and send commands to the satellite, full operation of the satellite's attitude control system has not been achieved at this time. PanAmSat has deactivated the communications payload at this time to conserve power. The satellite is in a stable, safe mode, and engineers at Hughes Space and Communications Co., which built the spacecraft, are examining all pertinent data to determine the causes of and potential solutions to the anomalies.

"PanAmSat has advised its Galaxy IV customers that the satellite will remain out of service until Wednesday morning at the earliest. We are helping customers with short-term restoration plans for their satellite transmission requirements. In addition, given the size and flexibility of PanAmSat's global satellite network, we are examining long-term options in the event that we cannot reactivate the satellite, including the use of available capacity on other PanAmSat spacecraft with domestic U.S. coverage."

Contingency plans

Later, Robert Bednarek, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, PanAmSat Corp. stated:

"PanAmSat has initiated a comprehensive contingency plan to provide continuous service for our Galaxy IV satellite customers. We have advised our customers to implement their restoration plans whenever possible. In addition, we are providing restoration services on several of our satellites. Galaxy VI, a C-band satellite located at 74 degrees West Longitude, will be moved over the next six days to 99 degrees West Longitude, the current orbital location of the Galaxy IV satellite. Ku-band customers on Galaxy IV have been offered capacity on the nearby Galaxy III-R satellite, and several customers have already successfully started migrating to this satellite. We should see the return of many Ku-band services as the day progresses.

"PanAmSat continues to experience difficulties in the control of the Galaxy IV spacecraft. The on-board attitude control systems have not been restored and spacecraft engineers continue to examine possible solutions. The satellite is in a safe, stable mode with a deactivated communications payload. Engineers from PanAmSat and Hughes Space and Communications Co. are reviewing all available design information to assess the potential fault and suggest remedies.

"PanAmSat remains committed to the immediate restoration of our customer networks. Satellite capacity has been identified and made available to customers, and PanAmSat is making every effort to assist those customers in migration to that spare capacity. We continue to investigate the cause of the Galaxy IV on-board anomaly and will provide further updates as additional information becomes available.

"We would also like to express our thanks to other satellite operators in the United States and abroad, which have offered to provide PanAmSat with satellite capacity to meet our customers' service requirements. Our industry recognises the importance of the services we provide for consumers every day, and we are allied to meet any challenge."


There are quite a few. Scott Baradell, a spokesman for PageNet, one of several paging companies whose services were interrupted, estimated that 80 percent to 90 percent of the 40 million to 45 million U.S. pager users lost service. (Pagers are those tiny gadgets that beep or vibrate to indicate somebody has left a message or wants to be called back.)

Radio and TV programmes were also interrupted. WFUV for instance, a public-radio station that broadcasts from its Fordham University headquarters in the Bronx, did not get its usual overnight programming feed from the satellite and had to improvise some of its own.

Six of the nine National Public Radio affiliates in West Virginia shut down today because they received their feeds via Galaxy IV. "My stations are off. Nothing," said Frank Hoffman, general manager of WVPN-FM in Charleston, W.Va. "This is the first time this has happened ever." Some other NPR stations reportedly switched to telephone lines.

As ISDN is not really popular in the U.S., it seems NPR is unable to provide its programming using this method which actually provides near-CD quality over a usual telephone line in case digital compression such as MPEG 2 Layer 3 is used.

In addition, television stations use Galaxy IV to transmit feeds of advance shows, said Marguerite Sullivan, satellite coordinator for KCAL-TV in Los Angeles. CBS radio and television, the Chinese Television Network and the CNN Airport Channel use the satellite for feeds. CBS reportedly switched to the Galaxy VII satellite.

The Galaxy IV outage shows how dependent modern society has become on satellite services, not only as far as radio and TV are concerned. Gas stations had problems with pay-at-the-pump machines that weren't accepting credit cards. "We're going back to the old ways, manually. It's a pain in the butt," said Maurice Tamamian, a manager at a Chevron gas station in Los Angeles.

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Austar's independence and "new flexibility"

United International Holdings, Inc. (UIH) in a statement said that it is "business as usual" at its Australian multi-channel television subsidiary Austar Entertainment Pty Ltd. ("Austar") in the wake of Australis Media Limited's (AML) Chapter 11 filing in the U.S. and appointment of a receiver and manager in Australia.

Austar said it was the second largest pay television operator in Australia, providing multi-channel television services to nearly 210,000 subscribers in its current operating territory of 1.6 million homes.

Up until May 20, 1998, Austar distributed certain programming channels provided by AML. As a result of AML's financial difficulty, however, Austar has now activated a number of replacement agreements for programming and satellite distribution which have resulted in the following:

Austar's replacement agreements include arrangements with both Foxtel Management Pty Limited and Optus Vision Pty Limited for programming rights and satellite transmission services. With respect to satellite transmission, Austar and Optus have implemented a 50/50 joint venture for the ownership and operation of a satellite distribution platform. The platform is operational and is currently providing satellite transmission services to Austar.

Mike Fries, Sydney-based President and CEO of UIH Asia/Pacific, the parent company of Austar, said, "Given the fluid nature of the Australian marketplace, we had fully anticipated the events of the last few weeks." [Yes of course.]

UIH said it was a leading provider of multi-channel television services and related businesses outside of the United States. UIH has ownership interests in and provides management services to multi-channel television systems operating in 23 countries throughout the world, covering 10.7 million homes in franchise areas, 8.5 million homes passed and 3.9 million subscribers (including announced transactions). Additionally, UIH has ownership interests in entities serving over 3.0 million programming subscribers.

UIH: http://www.uih.com/ [just a guess ;-]

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CNBC leaves Hotbird

Somebody by the name of Robi drew my attention to a Web page of CNBC that says "CNBC will be consolidating its service onto one satellite in the next few months--this will be on the Astra 1D satellite."

Cheers Robi, and I guess that's about it. Get the details at http://www.cnbceurope.com/connect/tuningin/

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Ewww... Yet Another Wacky Novelty. Martyn Williams forwarded a press release to me that says Sociéte Européenne des Satellites (SES) has launched "Astra-Vision," an audio-visual service promoting digital TV, radio and multimedia services transmitted via the Astra Satellite System.

Unlike the really important satellite operators, they don't send their statements directly to me and frankly I'm grateful for that 'cause I just couldn't care less! Stick 'em up your *rectum*, as Neil Rogers might put it.

Astra-Vision comprises complementary "information" channels available free-to-air all over Europe and features live feeds from different services, the statement went on to annoy me. [Actually, I hardly survived reading it.]

Astra-Vision is broadcast on Transponder 108 (12.556 GHz V--digitally, I presume) and will be updated on a regular basis, and this will be the last thing I write about Astra before I go on holiday [unless one, or even better, all of their satellites start to behave like Galaxy IV.]

If you like the program, just call the Luxembourg satellite police at +352 710 725 1. Call them if you don't like it, too. This is also the number where you can report any lost Astra satellite or abductions of those birds by aliens.

The Neil Rogers Show, weekdays 1400 to 1800 UTC in Real Audio: http://www.broadcast.com/radio/ram/wqam.ram

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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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