Sat-ND, 24.3.97

Sat-ND 97-03-24 - Satellite and Media News

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It seems as though the launch of the second Ariane 5 rocket, originally
planned for July 8, will be postponed once more. The European and French
Space Agencies, ESA and CNES, today announced the post-501 Inquiry Board has
led to modifications to the launcher's electrical systems and software. This
additional action, which does not call into question the design of the
launcher nor its flight readiness, is intended to improve its robustness,
increase the operational margins and allow for degraded operating modes. The
502 campaign schedule is contingent upon the time needed to carry out this
action, both agencies said in a press release.
An analysis of all the implications of this action and verification was
presented to ESA on March 21 by CNES and Aérospatiale, the industrial
architect. This now points to an Ariane 502 campaign start in mid-June, with
a view to a mid September 1997 launch date.
The Ariane 5 maiden flight lasted just 37 seconds until the rocket veered off
course following problems with its guidance system before it finally
self-destructed. Ariane 5 will be able to carry two three-tonnes satellites
into orbit at once, while its reliable predecessor Ariane 4 has a payload
capacity of up to 4.8 tonnes.

PanAmSat Corp. said it expects completion and delivery of its PAS-7 Indian
Ocean Region satellite in December 1997, paving the way for an anticipated
launch during the first quarter of 1998. 
In addition to the revised delivery schedule, Space Systems/Loral, which is
building PAS-7, has informed PanAmSat that the satellite is expected to
exceed its contractual weight specifications. 
To ensure that the excess weight does not affect the satellite's intended
operational lifetime of approximately 15 years, PanAmSat is exploring several
options, including satellite modifications by Space Systems/Loral or the use
of an alternative Ariane 4 launcher configuration to deploy the spacecraft.
(Ariane 4 can be equipped with several strap-on boosters to increase its
payload capacity.)
PanAmSat's revised launch schedule for future satellites is as follows: 
PAS 5, 58W: July 1997, Proton (International Launch Services [ILS]) 
PAS 6, 43W: early May 1997, Ariane 4 (Arianespace)
PAS 7, 68.5E: first quarter 1998, Ariane 4
PAS 8, 166E: 1998, Proton
Just a reminder (it's hard to keep up with all those mergers, you know): In
September 1996, PanAmSat and Hughes Electronics Corporation announced an
agreement to merge their respective fixed satellite services operations into
a new publicly traded company.

Gibraltar has become a member of the exclusive club of slot mongers. Orbital
slots, that is, positions where to deploy geostationary comminations
satellites. Of course, Gibraltar hasn't any of those satellites, but it has
some of those slots. They will help GE Americom help "developing our vision
to be an owner/operator of satellite based communications services in
specific global markets," said John F. Connelly, chairman and chief executive
officer of the U.S. company.
An agreement between GE Capital Satellites (Gibraltar) Ltd., a subsidiary of
GE American Communications Inc., and the Government of Gibraltar, a British
Dependent Territory, was finalised. GE(GIB), as the new company is known for
short, will actually control its European satellites from Gibraltar sooner or
later. The agreement includes an operating framework for future GE(GIB)
satellites which would be controlled from a planned facility in Gibraltar.
The agreement also details the relationship between GE(GIB) and Gibraltar
regarding filings made to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)
for orbital slots for use by GE to serve Europe, Africa and the Asia Pacific
"This project brings significant benefits to Gibraltar," said the Honourable
Peter Montegriffo, Minister for Trade and Industry of the Government of
Gibraltar. "It also establishes Gibraltar's link with GE which may open up
further possibilities for investment in the future." No doubt about that. I
know of at least one more satellite operator that will set up a business in
Gibraltar (although probably not using their orbital slots.)
GE Americom owns and operates thirteen satellites, mainly serving the USA. It
is also the largest commercial provider of satellite based data networks to
the U.S. government as well as the largest satellite distributor of
syndicated radio programming in the U.S. 
GE has taken a first step into Europe with SIRIUS 2, a follow-up to the
Swedish SIRIUS 1 (actually, the British MARCOPOLO 1.) The new satellite,
manufactured by France's Aérospatiale for the Swedish enterprise Nordiska
Satellitaktiebolaget (NSAB) is scheduled for launch in mid-1997 to 5E
(Sat-ND, 21.2.97.) Half of its 32-Ku-band transponder payload will be
targeted at Scandinavia whilst the other half will serve the rest of Europe.

It's back to basics for Comsat Corp., the U.S. signatory to the International
Satellite Telecommunications Organisation Intelsat. Once more, "shareholder
value" (which in the U.S. obviously hasn't become a swearword yet) was cited
as reason for the move. Profits slumped, major shareholders became nervous.
The Comsat Board of Directors Comsat approved a "comprehensive strategic plan
designed to deliver value to shareholders by refocusing the company on its
core satellite and network services businesses," the company stated in a
press release.
Of course, diversification can be overdone, and the satellite company Comsat
seems to be a good example for that. Did they really have to invest into the
Denver Nuggets basketball team and the Colorado Avalanche hockey team? (No,
just for once, I'm not joking.)
Comsat will go ahead with plans to sell its 80.67(!) percent stake in Ascent
Entertainment Group, parent of the NBA and National Hockey League teams. Also
on the block is RSI Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of COMSAT that designs,
manufactures and integrates earth stations as well as wireless and advanced
antenna systems. 
The strategic plan that was adopted now concentrates on two primary areas of
business -- international satellite services and digital networking services
and technology. Comsat's niche in digital networking is in the development
and operation of these networks in emerging markets and in the provision of
specialised services to customers with global requirements, such as the U.S.
In addition, Comsat will "continue to press for the privatisation of
INTELSAT, which will enable the company to take greater competitive advantage
of its interest in this satellite system," said Betty C. Alewine, Comsat's
new president and chief executive officer. (Her predecessor was dismissed
earlier when profits began to shrink.)

Integral System Inc. announced that it was awarded a contract from Echostar
Communications Corp. to provide dual satellite control centres for the
ECHOSTAR 3 satellite. This is the company's first contract with EchoStar, a
growing U.S. direct-broadcast satellite service, and it represents Integral's
first DTH (Direct-To-Home) satellite venture. 
ECHOSTAR 3, the third satellite in the EchoStar fleet to provide DTH
television service, is a Lockheed Martin A2100 satellite. It will be launched
in September 1997. 
Primary satellite control will be performed by Loral Skynet (formally AT&T),
which already operates the first two ECHOSTAR satellites. The control
facilities for ECHOSTAR 3 will be distributed between Skynet's tracking
station in Hawley, Pennsylvania and EchoStar's tracking station in Cheyenne,
Wyoming. The Cheyenne facility will serve as a backup station for Hawley. Due
to a decentralised system architecture, the two control facilities will be
completely interoperable. Each control will have the same capabilities and be
able to utilise ground equipment from either site. 

The German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung has hinted the country's one and only
media mogul Leo Kirch may be in financial trouble following the drawback of
Rupert Murdoch from Kirch's digital TV venture DF1. Instead of the predicted
hundreds of thousands of subscribers, DF1 reportedly still hasn't attracted
many more than 30,000. 
As experts noted earlier, Kirch has no choice but to team up with his
domestic competitors, notably the country's only pay-TV channel premiere in
which he happens to own a 25 percent stake. However, since Mr Murdoch
disappeared, nothing has happened. 
Instead, Kirch now is negotiating a billion-DM loan (US$600 million) to
"finance business activities." (Kirch has within the past few years spent
several billions of U.S. dollars to buy broadcasting rights especially from
Hollywood's major studios, but also the transmission rights for the Football
[soccer] World Championships.) 
Although Kirch Group tried to play down the issue today, saying it was usual
to finance business operations through a mixture of capital and credits, it
still is delicate in a different way. Negotiations include a bank owned by
the German federal state of Bavaria, whose "independent" media authority by
the way also keeps issuing new licenses to DF1 once courts in other parts of
Germany bag the old ones.
Of course, the bank said that this was by no means a state subsidy for Kirch.
Of course, Kirch Group did not acknowledge that the money was needed to keep
their digital venture going. Of course, Kirch Group also said there was no
such thing as a liquidity shortage at all. 
Kirch Group is the leading vendor for TV programming in Germany with an
estimated annually turnover of up to US$1 billion. Kirch also holds major
stakes in commercial TV channels such as SAT.1, Deutsches SportFernsehen.

"Wireline delivery will always be better than wireless."
TCI president Leo Hindery, displaying profound technical ignorance at last
week's U.S. National Cable Television Association convention in New Orleans.
Unless he was just being ironical, that is.

FEEDBACK: Sat-ND, 21.3.97
> If scientists only had a giant vacuum cleaner. They don't, and so their
> three-day conference on space junk held in Darmstadt, Germany, had to end
> with a statement instead of some collective hoovering action. (And as
> there's already a vacuum up there, a vacuum cleaner wouldn't work anyway,
would it?)
Theoretically, it should, if a sink cleaner cleans sinks, a vacuum cleaner
should clean vacuums ;-)
Philip Burden (who also remarked he just couldn't resist)
[Of course! Why on earth didn't I think of that? Sure sounds logical to me.
You will undoubtedly be invited to the next conference of that kind to
present your ideas of how to clean the vacuum to the scientific community.
Hopefully, they will also invite linguists ;-) Cheers!  Ed.]

Copyright 1997 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.

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