Archive for December, 2006

IPTV Movin’ and Shakin’

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

Longtime readers of Really Rocket Science know that we’ve been closely tracking the emerging (and soon to be explosive growth) in IPTV (see our posts here, here and here).

It’s expected that global household subscriptions to IPTV will leap from 2 million in 2005 to more than 34 million by 2010 — and with growth like that, you’d expect to see lots of players jumping into the game, or consolidating to form a larger team.

And indeed they are. Marketwire today carries a press release announcing that IPTV and advanced media services companies Auroras Entertainment, LLC and Broadstream Communications, Inc. have signed a Letter of Intent to merge following shareholder approval. The name of the combined entity will be Avail Media, Inc.

We heard this scoop a few days ago over at Fierce IPTV. From the press release:

  Ramu Potarazu, formerly COO of Intelsat and now CEO of Broadstream, will become CEO of Avail. Diane Smith, Auroras’ CEO, will become President of Avail. Rounding out the executive team will be Jon Romm – EVP of Sales, Marketing and Business Development; Steve Bukowski – EVP, Integration and Operations; Mike Kazmier – EVP, Technology; and Ben Goux – CFO. Both Broadstream and Auroras will be wholly owned entities of Avail Media.

It’s interesting that Ramu Potarazu and Jon Romm, formerly of Intelsat, are playing key roles in this new venture, especially considering rumors that Intelsat has internally killed its IPTV service. One wonders if the new venture will lead Auroras to move off of Telesat’s satellite.

In related news, the progress of other IPTV ventures is less than encouraging

And merger announcements aside, an obvious key to future IPTV success is content— and SES Americom has a clear lead in transport agreements with major content providers.

Nonetheless, we’ll continue to watch this space closely, and to bring you the latest news from the burgeoning IPTV market. 

ILS Launches Malaysia’s MEASAT3 Communications Satellite

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

International Launch Services successfully lifted Malaysia’s third and most powerful communications satellite — MEASAT3 — via a Proton rocket from ILS’s launch facility at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan yesterday.

On hand to witness the launch in person were Tai Kai Xin, age 10, and Izza Azreenah binti Azizan, 17 — winners of a launch drawing contest (link opens in PDF) that MEASAT Satellite Systems held for schoolchildren across Malaysia.

New Straits Times provides the details from the chilly launch pad: 

Cheers, sighs of relief, and even tears of joy flowed freely among most of the over 50 officials and invited guests who braved icy conditions and temperatures of -17 degrees Celsius to witness the lift off at 5.28am Kazhak time (7.28am Malaysian time).

As the countdown hit zero, the 5.5- tonne rocket, propelling the Measat 3 to its orbit in outer space, tore off almost silently from the launch installation with a huge ball of fire from burning fuel below propelling its upward trajectory.

Only seconds later did the blast off register to witnesses on the ground with a major tremor that jolted the surrounding areas and a delayed, deafening thud to sound the lift off.

Measat 3, which carries a payload of 24 C-band and 24 Ku-band, is the biggest satellite launched so far by owners Measat Satellite Systems Sdn Bhd which also has Measat 1 and Measat 2 already in operation.

The new satellite has a 15-year orbit mission life and will change the lives of Malaysians and alter the landscape of the regional satellite business.

The launch of Measat 3 was telecast live in Malaysia by sister firm and pay TV operator Astro, which will be a big user of the new satellite in future.

The event was also telecast live globally on the Internet by US-Russian joint venture firm International Launch Services (ILS) and top officials of ILS and Boeing, the makers of the satellite.

The ILS broadcast of the launch can be viewed (in its full 51-minute glory) here. Also be sure to check out ILS’s Launch Blog for additional details, as well as their photo gallery for some cool shots of the Proton rocket.

Behind the Scenes on the Shuttle Night Launch

Tuesday, December 12th, 2006

After a delay due to weather, the Saturday night launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery marked the first shuttle night launch in more than four years.

The Discovery mission involves more than NASA, however: Playing a key role in analyzing the weather and the launch itself was the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing out of Patrick Air Force base in Florida.

Air Force Link provides a unique behind-the-scenes look into the role of the 45th Space Wing in Discovery’s launch:

Several units across the 45th SW played vital roles such as helping validate the pad after the shuttle rolled out, final ordnance installation, providing weather forecasts, organizing and training Department of Defense contingency response forces and media relations.

The wing also provided eastern range support with a vast network of radar, telemetry, meteorological, optical and communications instrumentation that helped facilitate a safe, picture-perfect launch….

Another of the ways the 45th SW supported this mission was monitoring restricted airspace near Kennedy Space Center and helping keep it clear during the launch window.

Staff Sgt. Adam Greer, of the wing’s 1st Range Operations Squadron, served as an aerospace control officer. He closely monitored a radar scope and had the capability to facilitate contacting pilots who strayed into the restricted airspace, if necessary, during the mission.

Sergeant Greer remembers watching space shuttle launches as a kid. He said it’s surreal that he is part of the launch team now.

"The fact that I played a role in space exploration by helping launch a mission to the International Space Station is something that will stay with me forever," he said.

The STS-116 mission is the 33rd for Discovery and the 117th space shuttle flight. During the planned12-day mission, the crew will continue construction on the International Space Station, rewiring the orbiting laboratory and adding a segment to its integrated truss structure. 

Click here for more information on the 45th Space Wing at Patrick AFB.

NASA has the BEST WEEK EVER! Oh, and wins a Nobel Prize…

Monday, December 11th, 2006

Sure, shuttle disasters and budget cuts have left a chip on its’ shoulder, but many are arguing that NASA has had, in the words of that timeless Vh1 show, the best week ever! Between the surprisingly successful shuttle launch, the announcement of the agency’s plan to return to the moon, and now a Nobel prize, the AP explains, NASA is having a week better than the one you spent in Cabo with Heidi Klum.

The Nobel, of course, went to John C. Mather whose study of cosmic background radiation works to confirm much of the big bang theory. From the Nobel Committee:

"This year the Physics Prize is awarded for work that looks back into the infancy of the Universe and attempts to gain some understanding of the origin of galaxies and stars. It is based on measurements made with the help of the COBE satellite launched by NASA in 1989.

The COBE results provided increased support for the Big Bang scenario for the origin of the Universe, as this is the only scenario that predicts the kind of cosmic microwave background radiation measured by COBE. These measurements also marked the inception of cosmology as a precise science. It was not long before it was followed up, for instance by the WMAP satellite, which yielded even clearer images of the background radiation. Very soon the European Planck satellite will be launched in order to study the radiation in even greater detail."

Take a look at some of the photos tied to the announcement (rhetorical question: are all nobel prize-winning physicists not photogenic or does the Nobel prize committee actually seek out individuals who look odd in front of the lens?) and Mather’s acceptance speech.


Saturday Night Shuttle Launch

Monday, December 11th, 2006

Gorgeous launch. I’ll be watching this mission on NASA TV



Ariane 5 Launches AMC-18 and Wildblue-1

Friday, December 8th, 2006



Watched the launch live via satellite from French Guiana. A little cloudy, but still pretty cool. They may can it for viewing here.

Hope tomorrow’s STS-116 launch from Florida is clearer.

According to Arianespace:

Dans la nuit du vendredi 8 au samedi 9 décembre 2006, Arianespace a mis en orbite de transfert géostationnaire deux satellites pour deux opérateurs privés américains : WildBlue-1 pour WildBlue Communications et AMC-18 pour SES Americom.

Trentième lancement d’Ariane 5, seizième succès d’affilée

Ce nouveau succès du lanceur Ariane 5, le cinquième en 2006, confirme que l’offre de Service & Solutions d’Arianespace est la référence la mieux adaptée aux besoins des opérateurs, qu’ils soient privés ou institutionnels.

Au cours de ces 12 derniers mois, Arianespace aura mis en orbite douze satellites de télécommunications et une expérience technologique.

Aujourd’hui, Ariane 5 est le seul lanceur opéérationnel disponible sur le marché commercial capable de lancer simultanément deux charges utiles.

Au service de deux clients américains prestigieux

Le choix d’Arianespace par un nouvel opérateur du secteur des télécommunications spatiales américains et par le plus grand opérateur de services par satellites aux Etats-Unis, illustre la reconnaissance d’un service de lancement de qualité.

C’est en utilisant les capacités du satellite Anik F2 de Telesat, lancé par Ariane 5 en juillet 2004, que la société WildBlue Communications, basée dans le Colorado, a lancé son activité Internet. WildBlue-1 permettra à WildBlue Communications d’élargir son offre en large bande à destination des utilisateurs privés et des petites entreprises dans les zones où l’offre terrestre est actuellement inexistante.

Le satellite AMC-18 est le vingt-cinquième satellite confié au lanceur européen par le groupe SES Global (Euronext Paris et Bourse du Luxembourg : SESG), le plus grand opérateur privé de satellites au monde. Le satellite AMC-18 sera exploité par SES Americom, premier fournisseur de services par satellite aux Etats-Unis, qui exploite une flotte de 18 satellites en orbite, fournissant principalement ses services sur l’ensemble du continent américain. En tant que membre de la famille SES Global, SES Americom est aujourd’hui à même de fournir des solutions de télécommunication de bout en bout dans toutes les régions du globe.

DIY Friday: Satellite Monitoring for Next to Nothing

Friday, December 8th, 2006

Any satellite geek with a lick of imagination has imagined what it might be like to work at one of the dozens of American intelligence organizations utilizing top-secret government satellites and communicating and transmitting information around the world. It sounds like a sweet deal: a nifty chair, your own spot in the control room, all space-news you can eat — how could it not be awesome?

Well, if you’re anything like me, you’re probably forgetting that making satellite monitoring your job would mean, well, making it your job. All of a sudden, the vision of a job among the stars crashes to reality and, before you know it, that position playing with satellites becomes just another 9-to-5 with the requisite paper pusing, confused middle mangers, and brown-bag lunches on synergy.

So what’s a geek to do?

Easy. Make satellite monitoring your hobby. Today’s DIY Friday link brings us to and shows us how with a couple antennas, a radio scanner, and short-wave tuner anyone can make their own mission control.

Sure, it might not set you up with a sweet government 401K, but at least a DIY Sat Monitoring rig means you don’t have to seek congressional approval to amp up your transmitter, right?

A Rocket Science Finish to 2006

Thursday, December 7th, 2006

If the weather cooperates, tonight’s launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery could kick off a "rocket finish" to 2006.

At least nine satellite or shuttle launches are scheduled between now and December 31st.


NASA reports from the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center

All systems onboard the space shuttle are functioning normally this morning, but there’s a 60 percent chance of weather prohibiting a liftoff at 9:35 p.m. EST. A cold front moving through the area is expected to bring with it a lingering blanket of clouds and isolated light rain. The team will press on with the countdown for now, in case the weather cooperates after all.

Starting shortly after 9:00 a.m., Discovery’s orange external tank will begin loading 500,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and hydrogen. This process, called "tanking," takes about three hours to complete. The propellant levels in the tank will be continuously "topped off" until the final minutes of the countdown.

Across the space center, in the Operations and Checkout Building’s crew quarters, the astronauts are scheduled to wake up just as tanking is getting under way. After breakfast, a weather briefing and suiting up, they’ll board the silver Astrovan and leave for the launch pad amid the cheers of Kennedy employees.

The STS-116 mission is the 33rd for Discovery and the 117th space shuttle flight. During the 12-day mission, the crew will continue construction on the International Space Station, rewiring the orbiting laboratory and adding a segment to its integrated truss structure.

But will the weather cooperate? "The forecast has trended for the worse right now," says Kathy Winters, the shuttle’s weather officer.

The weather in French Guiana looks a bit better for tomorrow’s planned launch of Arianespace’s final Ariane 5 mission of the year,  which will lift SES-Americom’s AMC-18 satellite. That launch can be seen live in North America beginning at 4:45 pm EDT.

NASA Says Water Has Flowed on Mars at Least Twice in Last 7 Years

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006


Well, this sure beats Al Capone’s vault.

 The photo to the left shows new deposits of mud, silt or frost on the surface of Mars, which weren’t there several years ago.

As CNN explains:

 "The latest research emerged when the Global Surveyor spotted gullies and trenches that scientists believed were geologically young and carved by fast-moving water coursing down cliffs and steep crater walls.

"Scientists at the San Diego-based Malin Space Science Systems, who operate a camera aboard the spacecraft, decided to retake photos of thousands of gullies in search of evidence of recent water activity.

"Two gullies that were originally photographed in 1999 and 2001 and re-imaged in 2004 and 2005 showed changes consistent with water flowing down the crater walls, according to the study."

The Christian Science Monitor has more: 

For years, evidence from Mars has supported the idea that billions of years ago, large amounts of water flowed on the planet. Surface-penetrating radar on Europe’s Mars Express orbiter has found large ice deposits several kilometers below the surface.

But the strongest evidence for potential watery habitats today had come from NASA’s Galileo orbiter and from the Cassini orbiter, which is currently touring Saturn and its moons. Galileo’s evidence points to a slushy ocean beneath the thick ice crust of Jupiter’s moon Europa.

Cassini tracked watery geysers bursting from Enceladus, suggesting that this moon of Saturn holds reservoirs of liquid water.

But now, Mars is back on the leader board.

"I think they’ve gotten it right," says Bruce Jakosky, director of the Center for Astrobiology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, of the new results.

The presence of liquid water below the Martian surface doesn’t prove that organisms live there, he cautions. But it does change the discussion.

"People have talked about ancient life, given the evidence for ancient liquid water" turned up by orbiters and surface rovers, Dr. Jakosky explains. And evidence continues to mount that liquid water has been present in the red planet’s geologically recent past. "This is the first piece of evidence that says ‘now,’ not ‘a million years ago,’ " he says.

What is your reaction to today’s announcement from NASA? 


NASA to Make Major Mars Announcement at 1 PM EDT

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

We’re eagerly awaiting NASA’s live briefing this afternoon at 1 p.m. Eastern, while keeping our enthusiasm in check with memories of Geraldo Rivera opening Al Capone’s vault.

That said, the rumors that water may have been found on the Red Planet are enticing.

You can watch the briefing live on NASA TV, or check back here this afternoon for the full story.