As frequently mentioned in this so-called newsletter, Europe still lacks a small launch vehicle for smaller payloads such as low-Earth orbit satellites.
According to Gerard Brachet, Director General of the French Space Agency CNES, the new rocket will be called... no, not Viagra but Vega. It is to be adapted from the strap-on boosters now used on France's heavy lift launcher Ariane 5. That's not quite enough power, though, so the Vega will have an additional stage.
It will be about the in same class as the U.S. rockets Athena (Lockheed-Martin) and Pegasus and Taurus (Orbital Sciences.) [Still sound like condom brands to me.] Those rockets have the main share of the international market for commercial launches of satellites up to 900 kg. There are, of course, also Russian rockets--actually converted intercontinental ballistic missiles-- and one type of them is offered in a joint venture with Arianespace.
Vega launch services will be offered by Arianespace from Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
Brachet said that France was also studying the possibility of building launch complexes in Kourou for the Russian Soyuz rocket, which is being marketed to commercial firms by a French company.
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"Brasilsat S1" and "S2" should read "Brasilsat A1" and "A2" respectively. And "Brasilsat B4 will be placed probably into 92W position replacing Brasilsat A2 which is located at this position."
Thank you very much. I'm sorry I can't check press releases, it would take too much time. [Come on... what do you expect from a totally free, so-called newsletter ;-]
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AMSAT-NA President Bill Tynan, W3XO, had a lengthy explanation for that in which he explained North Americans the difference between the European Space Agency ESA ("It is similar to NASA in the United States except that it is multi-national") and Ariancespace ("the organisation set up to market Ariane launches.")
To cut a long story short: Ariane Flight 501 was a failure, 502 was only a partial success. There will have to be a third test flight, as we all know, but ESA has decided to make at least some money with it in order to recoup some of the additional costs. And that's where things become really interesting. Tynan: "As a result, [ESA] asked Arianespace to try very hard to find a paying customer for A-503. A figure of somewhere around [US]$35,000,000 was mentioned. This is about half of the amount usually paid to launch a present-day commercial satellite on an operational launcher. ... ESA even signalled a willingness to delay the flight until a suitable customer could be found. This shows how serious they were in wanting to recoup some of the financial losses they have suffered as a result of the delays and problems that have befallen the Ariane 5 program."
AMSAT-NA (North America) may not be quite up to date with current developments in Europe. There actually had been a customer for Flight 503: Eutelsat W2. However, the satellite will have to stand in for Eutelsat W1 on an Ariane-4 dual launch. As reported, W1 got seriously damaged in an incident at Aerospatiale's Cannes facility and is, at least currently, not available. Ariane Flight 503 will instead have a W2-dummy aboard, but that is not necessarily the reason why Phase 3D was dumped.
Arianespace, however, seems to want to get Flight 503 off as soon as possible and according to the AMSAT statement more or less bought it from ESA. According to Tynan, they "agreed to pay ESA some [US]$40,000,000 in order to control the payloads on the mission and get A-503 launched as soon as possible. It is not known at this time what Arianespace will choose to put on the '503 flight; it may even be a dummy satellite of some sort. The bottom line is that Phase 3D will not ride on Ariane 503" simply because Arianespace does not want it to for whatever reason. [My personal impression is that it would in fact delay Flight 503, which is scheduled for October 1998.]
Tynan emphasised that "AMSAT is taking steps to complete the testing of Phase 3D and have it ready for any launch that we might be able to obtain," adding, "naturally, ESA and Arianespace are still prime candidates ..." The 600-kg satellite was built with the prospect being put into a geostationary transfer orbit by an Ariane-5 but using an appropriate adapter it could also be launched aboard an Ariane 4. "Because it was built to go on an Ariane, it just can't be put on any rocket that's going up," said Tynan. The launch will thus be delayed at least until next year.
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The paper claims that after the Intelsat 708 massacre, which cost a still unknown number of lives (up to 200 according to U.S. accounts.) Chinese authorities barred U.S. military officials from the crash for five hours, saying it was for their safety. [Which may be true--people in the crash zone died not only because they were hit by some parts of the exploded rocket but also because of poisonous gases created by the crash, which of course take some time to dilute.]
Once the U.S. officials arrived, they found the Loral satellite's battered but still intact control box--however, a "supersecret encoded circuit board" was missing. Administration officials questioned by the House National Security and International Relations committees said they suspected China stole it. On the other hand, a crash is a crash: you can't really expect every single component of a satellite to survive it.
The circuit board, according to administration officials, was used to tell the satellite "which way to point to receive and transmit signals to and from Earth." It's probably a bit more complicated as indigenous Chinese satellites can do that as well. They have some problems with station-keeping, though, which owing to an increased fuel consumption shorten their operational life.
[If all this were true, it won't take long before people start asking whether the Chinese have blown up a few of their rockets in order to gain access to U.S. satellite technology. I think that's just ridiculous as those failures have more or less ruined their international reputation as a launch provider up to date, and that has cost them quite a bit of revenues indeed--more than what they could possibly gain from stealing a circuit board.]
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This action will allow USSB to continue to concentrate its financial resources and management attention on the development of its existing DBS business at the eastern orbital location of 101 degrees West that it shares with DirecTV, the company said. Additionally, USSB is pursuing independent business opportunities at its authorised 110 degrees West orbital location.
USSB's action regarding the 148 degrees West location will facilitate the FCC's administrative planning with respect to the western orbital locations, which also includes the recently returned western authorisations previously held by DirecTV and Tempo Satellite at 157 degrees West and 166 degrees West respectively.
The FCC originally assigned DBS systems in east-west pairs and required FCC permittees to construct at both the east and west locations. In 1996, the FCC eliminated the requirement to build at the western orbital locations, once it determined that full coverage of the continental United States could be provided from three of the eastern orbital locations, including the 101 and 110 degrees West locations which are held by USSB.
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"The Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Sushma Swaraj [also known as Ms Genghis Khan] today announced the government's decision to allow uplinking facility to private Indian satellite channels from Indian soil," the statement said. "This announcement was made during the minister's meeting with private broadcasters here today."
Up to now, commercial satellite TV is uplinked from Singapore, Hong Kong and Manila. It will have to stay that way unless "The applicant [is] an Indian satellite channel with resident Indian equity holding of not less than 80 percent and effective management control being with resident Indians."
A channel interested in an Indian uplink would have to abide by the same programme and advertising codes that apply to the state-run Doordarshan television. Even that is no guarantee for a license as licenses will be issued on a case-by-case basis "subject to certain parameters and criteria."
Up link facilities will only be available through the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL,) and a license would initially be granted for one year.
Swaraj said uplinking of the programmes from Indian soil would make it possible for the government to monitor the programmes with a view to safeguard national interests. It remains to be seen whether broadcasters are really interested in that.
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TCI was the top cable operator in the United States several months ago and is in the process of selling some systems, which would bring it into the second place position behind Time Warner.
TCI is upgrading its vast cable wire system with the latest digital technology, including cable set-top boxes, which allow subscribers to shop interactively, as well as allow TCI to offer a variety of services such as telephony and Internet access.
Cable guys may sell Primestar
In related news, some of the USA's largest cable operators (including TCI) have begun to seek a buyer for part or possibly all of their 61% stake in satellite broadcaster Primestar.
Primestar shares have fallen 30% since the U.S. Department of Justice announced last month that it would try to block News Corp. CEO Keith Rupert Murdoch's US$1.1 billion deal to sell its slot to Primestar.
Observer noted that even if Primestar wins, the delay in getting Murdoch's license would make it impossible to lure small-dish customers in the holiday shopping season which would give other satellite services a big advantage in the race for market share.
Cable investors in the PrimeStar include Time Warner, TCI Satellite Entertainment, Comcast, Cox and MediaOne.
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In addition, viewers can also order high quality Kodak prints starting at US$12.95. When they visit Microsoft TerraServer consumers will, for the first time, have access to imaging recently taken by a Russian Kosmos satellite. On this mission, Aerial Images focused on gathering satellite photos of the south-eastern United States and major cities around the world.
The photos will allow customers to view their neighbourhoods, vacation spots and other locations from space at a resolution never before available. In the imagery a viewer can distinguish objects as small as two meters across--detailed enough to see a truck or a car, or to spot a house in a photo taken from space.
Microsoft TerraServer consumers are free to browse the entire archive of satellite images on the World Wide Web. Using their browser, users can search for a photograph based on a city name or region or using latitude and longitudinal co-ordinates. Users can then pan or zoom within the digital picture by "pointing and clicking." When a purchase is made, the image will be downloaded directly to a customer's PC and printed pictures can be delivered via mail direct to a consumer's home.
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[Which means that all other "push" services so far have been untrue. Just as I suspected :-] The "true" push services introduced in DirecPC 2.0 are called Turbo Webcast and Turbo Newscast. Furthermore, DirecPC 2.0 seamlessly integrates bundled ISP service for more convenient customer set-up and billing, and adds an easy-to-use, point-and-click electronic programme guide. Additionally, a new US$100 rebate--applied to the customer's credit card upon Turbo Internet service commencement--will bring the effective retail price for DirecPC hardware down to US$199.
Now, what about the "true push" thing? To quote the press release: "With Turbo Webcast, DirecPC subscribers will be able to choose from a list of the most popular sites on the Internet and have those sites delivered automatically to their hard drives by satellite. Because the information will be delivered straight to their PC hard drive, access to those sites will be instantaneous. Since the delivery process will employ the DirecPC satellite dish, the phone line will remain free for household/business use during information transfer."
Not as exciting as it may seem. The problem is that this only applies to "the most popular sites on the Internet," and I'm probably not the only one who thinks they're also usually the most boring ones. But there's also Turbo Newscast which "allows DirecPC subscribers to choose their favourites from more than 30,000 Usenet newsgroups and have the contents of those newsgroups delivered automatically, by satellite, straight to their PC hard drives." No comment on that.
[I'll spare you the pricing details as they only apply to the U.S. and most likely not to the other parts of the world where DirecPC is also available.]
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The OPTUS B1 and B3 series were launched by Long March serving only Australia. OPTUS B2 was spread all over a large part of China. They were RCA.. um.. GE.. um.. Martin Marietta.. um.. Lockheed Martin satellites. (Gee that must have been confusing to the contract people!)
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