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Arianespace successfully launched the Hot Bird 4 television satellite for the European Telecommunications Satellite Organisation, Eutelsat.
Hot Bird 4 is the 12th of 14 satellites that Eutelsat has entrusted to the European launcher. Built by Matra Marconi Space at Toulouse, Hot Bird 4 rounds out Eutelsat's second-generation satellite system. It will be the fifth satellite co-located at 13 degrees East, and will provide direct broadcast services in digital or analogue mode for the transmission of television and radio programming as well as multimedia services. Hot Bird 4 weighed 2,885 kg at lift-off, and is equipped with 20 Ku-band transponders.
Two other Eutelsat satellites, Hot Bird 5 and W2, are scheduled for 1998 launches by Arianespace. Flight 106 was carried out by an Ariane 42P, the version of the European launcher with two solid strap-on boosters. It used the 76th out of 116 Ariane 4 launchers ordered to date from the European space industry.
The next launch, Arianespace Flight 107, is scheduled for March 20. An Ariane 40 launch vehicle will be used to place into orbit the Spot 4 Earth observation satellite for French space agency CNES (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales).
Following Flight 106, Arianespace has now 41 satellites to launch.
Useless fact: My favourite news agency noted that "the rocket punched through a deck of low-altitude clouds but emerged seconds later and was visible from the ground for over six minutes."
Intelsat 806 was successfully launched aboard a Lockheed Martin Atlas IIAS launch vehicle. The satellite was acquired successfully by the tracking, telemetry, command and monitoring (TTC&M) network in Perth, Australia, approximately after 44 minutes.
Intelsat 806 will be deployed at 40.5 degrees West where it will begin commercial service in May 1998. From that orbital location, the spacecraft delivers to the Americas the largest video cable community on any single satellite, including an impressive channel line-up of over 70 of the most popular regional and international video channels. "There is no other satellite that can offer instant access to over 2000 cable headends from day one," emphasised Dolores Martos, Group Director for the Latin America Region.
The Intelsat 806 special hemi beam has been specifically designed to offer simultaneous connectivity to Latin America, the US and Europe, and accommodates distribution and contribution applications on both sides of the Atlantic. Intelsat 806 also is the only satellite with coverage of the Americas and Europe via Earth stations as small as 1.8 meters, which makes the use of the satellite really attractive and more affordable to broadcasters.
Useless fact: One billion seconds is about 31.7 years.
An official of of Moscow's Khrunichev space centre told news agency Itar-Tass in an interview that "Russian-made Rokot booster rockets can cardinally change the situation in the light satellite launch market in favour of Russia and Germany."
In fact, the joint venture of Russia's Khrunichev and Germany's Daimler Benz Aerospace (DASA) has orders to launch a total of 52 low-Earth orbit satellites from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in Northern Russia:
six E-Sat satellites for Echostar and DBS industries, USA (three flights.)
No need to explain the Iridium system, I guess; I don't know anything about Kitcom; and you can read all about E-Sat in Sat-ND, 17.6.97. The E-SAT constellation will make its capacity available for a number of telecommunications services and will initially provide automated meter reading and data messaging services to the electric and natural gas utility industries.
As usual, the Rokot is a converted ballistic missile, in this case the RS-18. Converting actually means that the two-stage rocket is equipped with an additional stage dubbed "Briz." Russia has to get rid of hundreds of such missiles under the START-2 strategic arms reduction treaty [wonder what the U.S. military do with their missiles. Just shredding them?!]
A Rokot, including its third stage, weighs 107 tonnes, is 28.5 meters long and 2.5 meters in diameter. It can put a payload into a 400-kilometer orbit with an inclination of up to 63 degrees. Itar-Tass noted that DASA invests US$35 million in the conversion of the launchers.
There have been three test flights so far, all originating from silos[!] at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The first flight from Plesetsk, with two E-Sats on board, is scheduled for early 1999. [Last June, it was announced the flight would take place in the last quarter of 1998 and that it would put three instead of two satellites into orbit.]
The Eurokot venture plans six Rokot launches annually and a total of 45 commercial launches in 1998-2010.
Useless fact: Louis Napoleon, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, lost the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 due wholly or in part from impaired kidney function resulting from kidney stone formation.
Europe's Arianespace and U.S. company Boeing seem to be the driving forces behind an attempt to form an association of launch service providers.
Both companies have confirmed they were in preliminary talks on "the possible formation of an industry association to promote commercial launch services." Companies also involved in the talks include China Great Wall Industries; Orbital Sciences of the United States; Rocket System of Japan; Sea Launch of Norway, Russia, the United States and the Ukraine; and Starsem of Europe and Russia.
What is it good for? Doug Heydon, president of Arianespace in the United States, reportedly said the group would "represent and coordinate" members' work in "areas of mutual interest" such as "allocation of risks and liabilities issues."
Useless fact: Long ago, the people of Nicaragua believed that if they threw beautiful young women into a volcano it would stop erupting.
Well, as our friends at the European Space Agency (ESA) have finally translated their press release ;-) here are some details about Skyplex, Hot Bird 4's onboard digital multiplexer.
The Skyplex system is the result of a co-operative venture between ESA and Eutelsat. The first model of the Skyplex payload has been developed under an ESA contract.
Digital TV is not as simple as traditional broadcasting technology. TV and other signals usually need to be conveyed through standard communication networks to a ground multiplexing centre where they are combined into a single high-rate multi-programme stream and transmitted to the satellite. [Except for the satellite bit, the same holds true for terrestrial transmissions, of course.]
Thanks to Skyplex, the satellite can instead be accessed directly, broadcasting is greatly simplified and costs are reduced. Any television production facility, radio station or Internet provider can directly access the satellite: a system the sise of a low-cost satellite news-gathering station (typically a 1.8 m dish and a 50 W transmitter) is sufficient to uplink to the satellite.
The Skyplex processor on board Hot Bird 4 demodulates the incoming low-rate signals and re-combines them into a single, high-rate multi-channel digital broadcast signal which is transmitted directly to users' homes. Transmission is fully compliant with the existing European digital television standard. The Skyplex signal is indistinguishable from a conventional Direct-To-Home signal and can be received by any standard digital TV receiver, ESA said in their press release.
Skyplex payloads are being mounted on Eutelsat's Hot Bird 4 and Hot Bird 5 satellites, the latter scheduled to be launched this summer. The Skyplex processor can assemble six uplink carriers with a net bit rate of 6 Mbit/sec each into a down-link stream of 36 Mbit/sec. The Hot Bird 5 version can also accommodate lower bit rates, down to 1 Mbit/sec, using advanced time division multiple-access techniques. [So, nothing about on-board digitising there, as a French-language news report suggested to me -- "Le satellite est équipé pour les numériser..."]
ESA stated that the Skyplex programme is an example of the agency, in partnership with industry and operators, aims to develop Europe's satellite multimedia market. The Skyplex programme was also an example of how success-oriented cooperation with industry leads to very short time-to-market initiatives (less than 20 months from contract signature to launch, which is really a breathtaking speed as far as European hi-tech activities are concerned.)
In its recently launched multimedia activities, ESA is negotiating the development of a second-generation Skyplex processor which will be designed to reduce costs and to provide new Internet-ready functionality to cope with interactive multimedia communications. This next generation will be available in late 1999.
Useless fact: The ancient Celts believed that rivers were the urine of goddesses. Many European rivers (Seine, Severn, Danube, etc.) were named after these urinating Celtic deities.
Government press releases! They go like this:
"The Honourable John Manley, Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the Honourable David Anderson, Minister for Fisheries and Oceans and the Honourable Alfonso Gagliano, Minister of Public Works Government Services Canada (PWGSC) announced today that, subject to successful contract negotiations, MacDonald Dettwiler Associates Limited (MDA) of Richmond, BC has been selected on the basis of a competitive process to construct and manage Radarsat II. This second Canadian Earth observation satellite will be a financial and management arrangement between MDA and CSA."
Truly exciting, isn't it. You've got to skip a few paragraphs before it becomes interesting. The new satellite, scheduled for launch in 2001, will be the most advanced Earth observation satellite satellite in the world. Unlike most remote sensing satellites, it is able to collect its images through a powerful microwave Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite system which provides all-climate, day and night imagery to clients around the world.
You guessed it: the new system will also be used for offering commercial imagery; the deal is a private sector-led arrangement with the federal government which will invest C$225 million. MDA pays C$80 million and will be responsible for all ongoing operations and data commercialisation. They've deserved it as Radarsat II is not only lighter, smaller and more capable but also comes at half the cost of Radarsat I.
Useless fact: The world's largest National park is 'Wood Buffalo National Park' in Canada.
There will be an African satellite system with a first spacecraft up by 2000 or 2001. It will be named Rascom 1 after its operator, the Regional African Satellite Communications Organisation.
I borrowed that from Sat-ND, 22.9.97. What was (and still is) unknown is who is going to build the satellite. But now, at least the bidders are known. They are those you might have expected and others you probably did not. However, it is likely that a consortium will be put together by next June that will build, operate and transfer the US$1.2-million system. The satellite is with US$200 million the smaller part as the contract also includes the installation of 456,000 fixed solar-powered telephone stations with international access across Africa over a seven-year period.
Among the bidders are satellite manufacturers such as Hughes Space and Communications Intl. (USA) and Alcatel Alsthom (France;) satellite organisations such as Intelsat and Inmarsat; Chinese launch service provider China Great Wall Industry Corp.; Italian Aerospace company Alenia Aerospazio; and Norwegian telecommunications company Nera.
Rascom said in a statement it would compile a short list of bidders "within a few weeks" and those pre-qualified would be asked to make specific proposals.
The systems is expected to reduce the average distance to the nearest telephone in Africa from 50 to 5 kilometers. Call rates would be much cheaper than what other providers will charge (Iridium: US$3, Globalstar: US$1, Rascom: 10 cents per minute.) The satellite will also be used for the transmission and exchange of radio and TV channels.
Useless fact: A South African monkey was once awarded a medal and promoted to the rank of corporal during World War I.
U.S. cable TV firm @Entertainment Inc. plans to issue roughly US$150 million worth of bonds to raise funds for its Polish digital television unit, Wizja TV.
Deputy head Przemyslaw Szmyt said that operation costs for the first 18 months of Wizja TV operations would amount to about US$350 million and that At Entertainment already raised US$200 million. The balance is to be covered by a bond issue to be be carried out in the first half of this year, Szmyt told a news conference. [Earlier, the starting investments were expected to be US$300 million (Sat-ND, 26.9.97.)
Szmyt said that @Entertainment would spend some US$20 million to promote Wizja TV before it launches operations on April 18 as Poland's first digital television network. Wizja TV will be broadcast over the Astra satellite system and be carried by @Entertainment's fully-owned subsidiary Polska Telewizja Kablowa cable TV operator.
"We expect to sell some 360,000 to 370,000 decoders to the end of 1998" Szmyt said. Wizja TV will apart from the usual stuff on 14 channels offer two original channels, Wizja 1 and weather channel Wizja Pogoda. Earlier, Wizja TV said it would air 21 all-Polish channels on three Astra transponders, with 14 carrying original programming.
Useless fact: Nearly a quarter of the population of Poland was killed in World War II.
Intelsat recently implemented several high-speed (34 and 45 Mbps) international Internet backbone links and announced that they confirm "the viability and desirability [!] of Internet via geostationary satellites."
Well, obviously there are still doubts about that, otherwise Conny Kullman, Intelsat's Vice President of Operations & Engineering would not have stressed that "Geostationary satellites are an excellent vehicle for transmitting Internet traffic."
In 1997, the Intelsat Technical Labs conducted a year-long trial with Telia in Sweden, testing 34 Mbps carriers over the Intelsat 603 satellite at 34.5 degrees West. A variety of Internet applications and protocols were tested, including file transfer (FTP), web browsing (HTTP), multicasting, etc. The tests were also performed using different access schemes such as dial-up, ISDN and leased lines, while simulating various traffic loading conditions. The successful results confirm the ability of geostationary satellites to handle the most popular sets of Internet services, Intelsat claims in a press release.
Actually, Internatic traffic is the organisation's fastest growing service. Last September, Intelsat's first duplex 45 Mbps Internet backbone link was implemented over the Pacific between North America and Malaysia. Just recently, Teleglobe and Telstra began to trial the first hybrid satellite/fibre, asymmetric link for Internet traffic via Intelsat. This configuration comprises a 45 Mbps carrier on the Intelsat 802 satellite at 174 deg E from North America to Australia, combined with a trans-Pacific cable connection for the return path (Sat-ND, 16.1.98.)
Canada'sTeleglobe has also chosen to implement Intelsat's first managed duplex satellite links in the Atlantic Ocean region, along with Embratel of Brazil, to provide high-speed connectivity to the Internet backbone. Four 34 Mbps carriers are operating in symmetric links on the Intelsat 803 satellite at 21.3 degrees West, a spacecraft providing extensive coverages at C-band frequencies over the Americas and well-suited for these types of applications.
Useless fact: 160 cars can drive side by side on the Monumental Axis in Brazil, the world's widest road.
Japan's Fuji Television Network Inc. will set up a digital high-definition TV service by 2000, reported Kyodo news agency.
Apart from that, Fuji will also offer two or three channels on the digital JskyB platform which is slated for launch late April. The offering will mostly consist of older programming already aired on Fuji's nationwide TV network.
A new company, tentatively called FNS Space Star, will be set up by September to offer high-definition channels on satellite. Fuji and its affiliated stations plan to provide about two thirds of the starting capital (¥25 billion.) Programming will be similar to that currently available through Fuji's terrestrial network.
The transmissions will be carried on the BS-4 satellite (which was probably not launched last spring, as Kyodo claimed, but is expected to hit the geostationary orbit around 2000.) Many other companies have so far announced to offer high-definition satellite TV on BS-4 (cf. Sat-ND 28.7.97; 15.10.97.)
Useless fact: Before the Second World War, it was considered a sacrilege to even touch an Emperor of Japan.
by Dr Sarmaz
British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC has agreed to stop bundling the Disney Channel with its subscription movie channels, British broadcast regulators said.
As from Monday, the Disney channel will be available to cable operators on a stand-alone basis, the Independent Television Commission (ITC) said. The ITC had investigated the matter after cable operator Videotron complained that its viewers were required to subscribe to two BSkyB movie channels before they could get the Disney Channel as well.
Useless fact: Disneyland has the fourth largest navy in the world.
When British politician Chris Patten, former chairman of the Conservative Party, was governor of Hong Kong from 1992 to 1997 he tried to expand democracy in the colony [better late than never.] He was frequently critisised by mainland China for that.
Now, he has written a book about his Hong Kong years. To be titled "East and West," it is believed to contain explicit criticism of the Chinese government and its human rights record. Mr Patten is obviously not a regular reader of RupertWatch, otherwise he would not have signed a US$200,000 contract with HarperCollins Publishers -- a company that is controlled by Rupert Murdoch, the man who catches a cold when the Chinese just sneeze. He admittedly kicked a BBC news channel off his Star TV satellite platform after the communist dictators in China had complained [I guess I may still call them what they are although hypocritical politicians all over the Western world, lured by business opportunities, seem to have forgotten about that fact.]
What a surprise that HarperCollins has now also scrapped Patten's book. Mr Patten has filed suit in London's High Court for breach of contract against HarperCollins. "It came as an awful shock to me that HarperCollins did not want to publish the book," Mr Patten was quoted as saying, which actually is a bit naive. [Having been in that region for such a long time, he should have known about the BBC/Star TV affair; and being an author, he should have known that Mr Murdoch controls HarperCollins.] Mr Patten has since found another publisher -- Macmillan -- which says the book should be available in September. All this is not overly interesting because it was to be expected.
However, it seems as if the UK is in for a broad discussion of its relationship with Mr Murdoch who not only controls BSkyB but also several papers and publishing houses. Several well-renowned authors threatened to quit HarperCollins. Historian Peter Hennessey told BBC radio that "HarperCollins has quite simply ceased to be a member of our open society and no one in their right minds of any worth will ever give them a book again."
There are even calls for the current Labour Party government to reassess its position on Mr Murdoch (whose British papers, unlike earlier, during the last general elections supported the Labour party.)
But back to the initial question: To what extent does the Chinese government control Western media? When Walt Disney Co. was producing a movie on the Dalai Lama, the Chinese ministry of Radio, Film and Television let it be known that was strictly opposed (Sat-ND, 26.11.96.) The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader and former ruler of Tibet which was occupied by China in 1950. As I'm not at all keen on movies, I have no idea what became of the project.
Useless fact: In ancient China, doctors received their fees only if their patients were kept healthy. If the patient's health failed, the doctor sometimes paid the patient.
Pegasus XL sounds like an...
Economy model Greek horse with hair conditioning and power steering.
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Yes, it's time again for our Q&A section. Unfortunately, there aren't any experts around here, so you get just the question but no answer.
Stéphane Herrent asks: "I would like to receive the channel Venevision in France. Is it possible? If yes, with which equipment?"
Jeez, never heard of it! Does anybody out there know? And does anybody have the recipe for Quiche Lorraine anyway?
And as if that wasn't enough... look out for new, exciting segments of this so-called newsletter to be introduced over the next millennium. Most of it depends on your input, though...
The reproduction of a plastic sign I once bought in England, reading
Useless fact: In Texas, it's illegal to put graffiti on someone else's cow.
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