Sat-ND, 25.4.97

Sat-ND 97-04-25 - Satellite and Media News

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Editorial Note

There will be no Sat-ND on Saturday and Sunday. First of all because I
don't expect anything to happen over the weekend anyway, and secondly
because the software that is used to send out this so-called newsletter
will be upgraded. Believe it or not, it becomes intelligent. It will
automagically sort out any bad addresses and take them off the mailing
list. We'll have to see how and whether this will actually work. In any
case, should you be kicked off the list against your will, the easiest
thing to do is to re-subscribe. Sorry for any _possible_ inconvenience.


That certain news agency did it again -- somebody there seems to have a
very intensive fondness for Atlas rockets. Back in March, an Atlas launch
was described as a "slender white rocket" climbing "gracefully off its
launch pad." However, this time the writer was a bit more interested in
the "clear, crisp Florida night sky" and not quite as much in the, guess
what, slender Atlas rocket, which wasn't just white this time but "silver
and white."
Enough of that rocket poetry. The weather satellite GOES-K has a good
chance of becoming GOES-10, which will happen once it has reached its
final orbit. It will act as an in-orbit spare for GOES 8 and 9 both of
which in the past reportedly have acted a bit strange sometimes. 
Of course, I haven't the faintest idea what's aboard those satellites but
at least I have a press release from ITT Defense & Electronics' Aerospace
and Communications Division (ITT A/CD) on the satellites' imagers and
The Imagers on all three satellites view the Earth from a 36,000-km-high
perch over the equator, simultaneously gathering data in one visible and
four infrared bands, or channels. Digitised pictures from the Imager are
similar to those television viewers see every evening on their local
news. The Sounders are similar in design, but provide meteorologists with
a vertical slice of the earth's atmosphere using 19 different channels.
These slices view weather conditions at different altitudes. According to
the company, the products from ITT A/CD's Imagers are so good that it
allows scientists to distinguish between ice and super-cooled water
clouds that are dangerous to commercial aviation. Its images are crisp
enough to permit tracking of individual icebergs and forest fires.
The Atlas I that lifted GOES-K into its geostationary transfer orbit was
built by Lockheed Martin. It was the 30th consecutive successful Atlas
launch from Cape Canaveral Air Station, the third launch of 1997 and the
last launch of the Atlas I configuration.
The Atlas I had its first flight in July 1990. Future NASA missions are
manifested to fly on Atlas IIA or IIAS, starting with the launch next
year of EOS AM-1 on an Atlas IIAS from the new launch pad at Vandenberg
Air Force Base on the West Coast. As Atlas I leaves the inventory, the
newest Atlas vehicle, the Atlas IIAR, is transitioning from development
to production and first launch late next year.


COMSAT, the United States' Intelsat signatory, petitioned the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) to relieve it from regulatory burdens and
allow it to compete on an equal basis with other international
telecommunications carriers and satellite companies. 
"COMSAT is the only U.S. international communications carrier that is
still regulated by the FCC as a dominant carrier and required to conduct
business under a public utility-style, rate-base, rate-of-return scheme,"
complained COMSAT President and Chief Executive Officer Betty C. Alewine.
"Even AT&T, which occupies a far larger position in international
telecommunications markets, has been reclassified by the FCC as a
non-dominant carrier."
The petition requests that COMSAT be allowed to change its rates and
introduce new services over the Intelsat  satellite system on one-day
notice. It also requests that limits on the company's rate-of-return and
certain structural separation requirements be removed. The company also
is seeking to be reclassified immediately as a non-dominant carrier in
providing its services.
While claiming this move was all about increasing the "shareholder
value," COMSAT at the same time pointed out how insignificant the company
had become since the FCC last reviewed COMSAT's carrier classification 12
years ago. "Since 1988, the competitive landscape has changed
dramatically," said Alewine. "In 1988, only one undersea fibre-optic
cable and one separate satellite existed for communicating overseas.
Today, there are more than 100 countries directly connected to the U.S.
by fibre-optic cables and a plentiful supply of alternative satellite
capacity on other separate systems. Faced with formidable competition
from Hughes/PanAmSat, Orion and Columbia -- which are totally exempt from
any common carrier or tariff regulation -- COMSAT is forced to operate
with one hand tied behind its back."
But COMSAT is even more unimportant. Its market shares on voice and data
traffic have dropped from 70 percent in 1988 to 20 percent in 1996, and
in the past three years, the company's share of video traffic has fallen
from 80 percent to about 40 percent. When AT&T filed for non-dominance,
it had 60 percent of the market.


The 4,600 subscribers to the digital DTH TV service AB Sat in France have
to watch ordinary TV since yesterday. (There have been no reports of
withdrawal symptoms yet.) At 5:30 p.m. local time, a fire broke out on
the AB Sat premises and caused minor damage to the satellite uplink.
Digital transmission equipment and tape storage facility weren't affected
by the fire. All personnel were safely evacuated from the building. Four
employees were hospitalised for smoke inhalation and have since been
released. Groupe AB expects to resume transmission by Saturday, April 26.
But of course, AB Sat is fully insured against fire and business
interruption due to fire.

Copyright (c) 1997 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights

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