Archive for April, 2009

Now Playing in D.C.: Al Jazeera

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009


Looks like MHz Networks has the courage to carry Al Jazeera English in the D.C. Market:

Al Jazeera English (AJE), the award-winning 24-hour global news and current affairs channel broadcast in more than 100 countries, has joined independent, non-commercial broadcaster MHz Networks’ prestigious international channel line-up in Washington, D.C.

Like MHz’s other international networks, AJE programming will be added in two forms. Beginning April 29, D.C. metro area viewers will be able to watch an evening newscast, anchored from AJE’s Washington, D.C., news bureau, at 10 p.m. on MHz Networks primary local channel known as MHz Networks 1/MHz Worldview D.C.

Then, beginning July 1, AJE will be broadcast 24 hours per day, seven days per week as “MHz Networks 5,” joining nine other international networks that MHz broadcasts and cablecasts in the region.

“It was important for us to broaden the range of world news that we bring to Washington, D.C.,” says Frederick Thomas, chief executive of MHz Networks. “AJE also fits perfectly inside of our mission and I think viewers are going to find it a reliable and top-quality source for news.”

It only took 30 months to get distribution. MHz Networks is also available via direct broadcast satellite in D.C. (DirecTV    2183/972 and Dish Network 8077/8084)

Meanwhile, the "Backyard Teleport" guy from Staten Island is going to jail for 6 years. Entertaining report on Gawker:

So this guy in Staten Island is going to prison for six years because he sold a satellite TV package of Arab news stations that included Al Manar, which is Hezbollah’s TERROR CHANNEL.

The prosecutors call him "Hezbollah’s man in New York City," because he offered this channel, which is apparently TERRORISM. He also sold porn, so you know he’s basically an Islamic fundamentalist and an amoral big city commie.

This America-hater’s punishment won’t end after his prison term, of course!

Iqbal, who has lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years, will most likely be deported once he has completed his prison sentence, Dratel said. Iqbal, a former car mechanic, is married with five children and a sixth child due in July.

 Go figure.



Far Out

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009


Tommy Chong of Cheech & Chong said it best: "Far out, man!"

I wonder if somebody at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said something similar about this blast from the past, maybe 13 billion light years away:

NASA’s Swift satellite and an international team of astronomers have found a gamma-ray burst from a star that died when the universe was only 630 million years old, or less than five percent of its present age. The event, dubbed GRB 090423, is the most distant cosmic explosion ever seen.

"Swift was designed to catch these very distant bursts," said Swift lead scientist Neil Gehrels at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "The incredible distance to this burst exceeded our greatest expectations — it was a true blast from the past."

At 3:55 a.m. EDT on April 23, Swift detected a ten-second-long gamma-ray burst of modest brightness. It quickly pivoted to bring its ultraviolet/optical and X-ray telescopes to observe the burst location. Swift saw a fading X-ray afterglow but none in visible light.

"The burst most likely arose from the explosion of a massive star," said Derek Fox at Pennsylvania State University. "We’re seeing the demise of a star — and probably the birth of a black hole — in one of the universe’s earliest stellar generations."

Gamma-ray bursts are the universe’s most luminous explosions. Most occur when massive stars run out of nuclear fuel. As their cores collapse into a black hole or neutron star, gas jets — driven by processes not fully understood — punch through the star and blast into space. There, they strike gas previously shed by the star and heat it, which generates short-lived afterglows in many wavelengths.

"The lack of visible light alone suggested this could be a very distant object," explained team member Edo Berger of Harvard University.

Beyond a certain distance, the expansion of the universe shifts all optical emission into longer infrared wavelengths. While a star’s ultraviolet light could be similarly shifted into the visible region, ultraviolet-absorbing hydrogen gas grows thicker at earlier times. "If you look far enough away, you can’t see visible light from any object," he noted.

Within three hours of the burst, Nial Tanvir at the University of Leicester, U.K., and his colleagues reported detection of an infrared source at the Swift position using the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. "Burst afterglows provide us with the most information about the exploded star and its environs," Tanvir said. "But because afterglows fade out so fast, we must target them quickly."

At the same time, Fox led an effort to obtain infrared images of the afterglow using the Gemini North Telescope on Mauna Kea. The source appeared in longer-wavelength images but was absent in an image taken at the shortest wavelength of 1 micron. This "drop out" corresponded to a distance of about 13 billion light-years.

Here’s a video of what a gamma ray burst would look like up-close (Credit: NASA/Swift/Cruz deWild):


Good On Ya, Mate!

Monday, April 27th, 2009


Americom Government Services (AGS) has been chirping about its "hosted payload" for a while now. It’s scheduled to launch in 2010, and the contract is worth about US$65, which isn’t chump change. What I think made the deal happen is the relationship between SAIC and the AGS CEO, who worked at SAIC for ten years.

Some may argue that AGS has an excellent relationship with the U.S. Government, especially with the Army and NASA. Others counter with Intelsat’s ability to lease more space segment. Why? Because they’ve got the inventory. You can’t sell what you don’t have. Can you make more of it? Yes, you can.

Today’s news from Australia about a US$165 (A$231) deal for a "piggyback payload" for the Australian Defence Force on a future Intelsat spacecraft launching in 2012 ought to spark a ton of chatter:

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) will spend more than $200 million to boost the global communications capabilities of its ships, aircraft and troops.

In a deal worth $231.64 million, the ADF has agreed to purchase the specialised UHF (ultra high frequency) communications package on a Intelsat satellite, which is set for launch in 2012.

The satellite will provide Australian ships, aircraft and troops with an advanced global communications capability.

Intelsat chief executive David McGlade said the contract represented a milestone in the development of hosted payloads that support long-term government needs.

"As this ADF program demonstrates, every commercial satellite going into orbit creates opportunities for governments to deploy mission-critical capabilities, with significant cost benefits and quicker time to in-orbit operations," he said.

The ADF has a growing reliance on satellite communications to run operations in theatres such as Afghanistan, and the UHF band is used widely by the military because of its adaptability to small, mobile terminals used by ground, sea and air forces.

Intelsat vice-president for hosted payload programs Don Brown said the deal would provided the ADF with a cost-effective, near-term solution for reliable UHF tactical communications.

Of course, the WSJ had a "heads up" on this deal, especially with regard to market impact:

The agreement is an important element of Intelsat’s bid to expand its share of the fastest growing part of the commercial satellite industry: supplying bandwidth to the Pentagon, other federal agencies and foreign governmental entities. The arrangement also could set a precedent for how the U.S. military will acquire commercial satellite capacity in the future, particularly with increased deployment of U.S. and foreign troops in Afghanistan.

As the operator of the world’s largest commercial satellite fleet, Bermuda-based Intelsat already has a robust government business. But instead of continuing to provide services to such users on a short-term, spot basis as has been the traditional pattern, the arrangement announced Monday establishes an important new benchmark. It dedicates part of a big satellite that is still under construction for use by the Australian Defence Force for 15 years.

The company said the satellite, another portion of which it hopes to lease in the same way, is expected to be launched in 2012. The majority of the satellite’s capacity, however, will be marketed to corporate customers under the usual terms.

"This is strategically important to us," Intelsat Chief Executive Dave McGlade said in an interview, noting that revenue at Intelsat General Corp., the company’s governmental-services unit, rose 23% in the last quarter. Mr. McGlade and his managers have worked hard in recent years to improve relations with government customers internationally, and to offer new ways to help meet the Pentagon’s communications requirements. He said Intelsat officials also have broached the idea of supplying imagery "and other types of sensors" to the U.S. military by using commercial platforms.


Wow, Intelsat General’s revenues are up 23% last quarter. Is AGS doing this well? I don’t think so; nothing found in the SES earnings highlights.


DIY Friday: Installing Satellite TV

Friday, April 24th, 2009


Think you can install satellite TV yourself? If you’re a satcom engineer, you probably can — especially if you’ve got a spectrum analyzer sitting around your shop at home. If not, a Birdog satellite meter can certainly help.


The two leading direct-broadcast satellite service providers in the U.S., Dish Network and DirecTV, prefer to have one of their techs install it for you. In Europe, ASTRA encourages you to do it yourself.

What if you don’t feel like setting aside a "4 hour window" during the week to have it installed? Wake up at 5:00 a.m. on a Sunday and decide "I’m gonna get me some satellite TV, momma!" What them?

You can’t get a better source of reference materials and instruction than on the Sadoun Satellite Sales Web site:

To get a signal, the satellite dish must be pointed directly at the satellite, with NO obstructions between the two. This means NO trees and NO buildings. Take into consideration future tree growth, house remodeling or additions and new construction in your area.
The satellite signal WILL NOT PASS through leaves or branches.
Use our Satellite Look Angle calculator to determine the proper dish angles.

Finding a Clear Line of Sight

  1. Get yourself a good compass, the best you can afford. Check the "Azimuth" and "Elevation" for your location here!
  2. Locate at least one site on your property that has a clear view to the satellite.
  3. Do you have at least one clear view to the satellite? Remember, no trees, leaves, or buildings can be between the dish and the satellite. 

If the answer is NO, your site may not be suitable for installing the satellite system.

If the answer is MAYBE, you may want to contact a local digital satellite dealer for information about having a professional installer conduct a thorough site survey.

If the answer is YES, your site should be suitable for installing the system. Go ahead to the next section of these instructions.

Good luck, Jim.

Satellite News Bits

Friday, April 24th, 2009

This week’s satcom news, courtesy of Bill McDonald

WildBlue to demonstrate 18 Mbps satellite-to-home service at Colorado capitol to showcase what satellite-delivered broadband can provide for rural residents.
[TMCNet – 04/24/2009]

Harris is awarded 10 year $600m contract to provide military satellite communications terminals for the U.S. Army, to provide worldwide backbone for high-priority military communications and missile defense systems.
[TradingMarkets – 04/23/2009]

Canadian broadcasters call for cable and satellite TV operators to compensate local TV stations for their signals in battle over Ottowa’s local TV station rescue package.
[ – 04/23/2009]

Dish network unveils Earth Channel, offering live views of earth from first earth camera installed on a commercial communications satellite.
[WorldScreen – 04/23/2009]

SES Astra signs second distribution agreement for the Spanish market with Net2, for Astra2Connect internet broadband service.
[Satellite Today – 04/23/2009]

SatCom Global is awarded full distribution partner status by Inmarsat for its FleetBroadband services.
[SatNews – 04/23/2009]

Six MTV HD channels are launched on SES AMERICOM-NEW SKIES HD-PRIME platform.
[SatNews – 04/23/2009]

Axxon’s newest global asset tracking solution, SMARTONE, uses Globalstar Simplex data network, allowing customers to track the location of mobile assets virtually anywhere.
[SatNews – 04/23/2009]

IDC and SENSIO Technologies announce operational roll-out of 3D in HD for digital cinema in Europe.
[SatNews – 04/23/2009]

Sea Tel Cobham releases first and only 3-axis marine stabilized antenna capable of automatically skewing to enable reception of DIRECTV signals from three Ku and two Ka satellites when moving from region to region.
[SatNews – 04/23/2009]

Telenor Satellite Broadcasting signs contract with SES SIRIUYS for satellite capacity in the Nordic region.
[SatNews – 04/23/2009]

NOAA provides Google Earth data including three-dimensional mapping of the Great Lakes.
[SatNews – 04/23/2009]

China successfully launches remote-sensing satellite on Long March 2C for surveying land resources, the environment, urban areas, and farmers’ crops.
[SatNews – 04/23/2009]

Merging of IP and satellite communications finds impetus as TeleCommunication Systems marries IP and satellite communications to provide all-IP service to military, enabling broadband data speeds and VOIP over small, transportable dishes.
[Urgent Communications – 04/22/2009]

eLynx, of Tulsa, launches intelligent WellLynx XI, combining satellite communications and intelligent input/output technology for monitoring wells using the Iridium satellite network.
[businesswire – 04/22/2009]

Arrowhead Global Solutions becomes CapRock Government Solutions, marking final integration of the unit into the CapRock company structure.
[BusinessJournal – 04/22/2009]

Comtech Mobile Datacom wins $8m order to build, test, and deliver next-generation Blue Force Tracking High Capacity, BFT-HC satellite transceiver to U.S. Army.
[RTT News – 04/22/2009]

Hughes signs Clear Channel Satellite as reseller of HughesNet broadband satellite solutions in the U.S.
[PR Newswire – 04/22/2009]

SES AMERICOM-NEW SKIES announces five-year contract with Turner Broadcasting System, Inc for distribution and contribution for CNN delivery to and from Europe and the Middle East.
[SatNews – 04/22/2009]

Sea Launch successfully launches Telespazio’s SICRAL 1B communications satellite into transfer orbit, while SpaceX is forced to delay launch of its first commercial payload due to potential compatibility issue between Falcon 1 vehicle and the payload.
[Aviation Week – 04/21/2009]

India launches Israeli-built spy satellite to boost its surveillance capabilities after last year’s Mumbai attacks exposed weaknesses in its defense apparatus.
[SatNews – 04/20/2009]

ORBCOMM provides satellite network for Manitowac’s CraneSTAR cran-tracking and asset management system.
[PR Newswire – 04/20/2009]

Stratos and SeaMobile partner to jointly market SeaMobile’s ClipWay real-time video transmission application.
[PR Newswire – 04/20/2009]

YAHSAT confirms landmark partnership deal with SES Astra to create new company offering direct-to-home satellite services to broadcast partners in Middle East, North Africa, and South-west Africa.
[Digital Production Middle East – 04/20/2009]

India launches radar-imaging satellite RISAT-2 to boost Earth observation, especially during natural disasters such as floods, cyclones and landslides.
[ – 04/20/2009]

SES AMERICOM-NEW SKIES announces multi-year agreement to deliver THIS TV  chanhnel from MGM and Weigel Broadcasting.
[Business Wire – 04/20/2009]

Brazil’s "Operation Satellite" is first large-scale enforcement attempt against satellite hacking in Brazil, a wide-spread practice that uses homemade gear to illegally communicate over U.S. military satellite transponders.
[ – 04/20/2009]

NSR Report – churn pressures drive adoption of advanced DTH receivers in the U.S. market.
[NSR Report – April 2009]

WBMSAT PS – Satellite Communications Consulting Services


India’s Spy Sat Launch

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Nice PSLV launch the other day. The report, via PTI:

Giving the much needed fillip to its defence surveillance capabilities, India today successfully placed into orbit an Israeli-built all-weather spy satellite but not before some "anxious moments" prior to the launch caused by a technical glitch which had threatened to stall the mission.

The 300 kg RISAT-2, which will also help tackle infiltration and terror activities, was shot into space by ISRO’s workhorse PSLV-C12 rocket 19 minutes after it blasted off from the spaceport here as scheduled at 6.45 AM, making India the fifth country having such a satellite.

But the launch was preceded by "anxious moments" during the 48-hour countdown for the ISRO team after an umbilical connector from PSLV-C12’s top got detached from the launch vehicle and about half-a-dozen others were "thrown out".

The last minute snag was overcome with the ISRO team managing the crisis making up the six hours of countdown time and setting everything right.

"With that condition, we could not not have gone on with the launch," ISRO Chairman G Madhavan Nair later said. "The final moments of the launch were more thrilling than a cricket match as we hit a few boundaries and bowled some googlies." The PSLV-C12, on its 15th mission, also launched RISAT-2’s co-passenger micro-educational satellite ANUSAT into orbit. A jubilant Nair described the RISAT-2 as a "new year gift" which would be an "asset" to the country as it worked in a mircowave band that would enable it to see through clouds and during night. 

Here’s the video report:



SES and Boots

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009


A flurry of press releases from SES today, none more amusing than the one from ASTRA on the Ukrainian satellite TV market:

SES ASTRA Boots Household Reach In The Ukraine

Satellite operator reaches 7.6 million households / Satellite TV is booming /

Additional potential with the move of ASTRA 2C

Luxembourg / Kiev, 21 April 2009. – SES ASTRA, an SES company (Euronext Paris and Luxembourg Stock Exchange: SESG), announced today that it has significantly increased its reach in the Ukraine and is now broadcasting to more than 7.6 million households across the country. The strong increase was driven by the boost of digital satellite reach where SES ASTRA gained 1.8 million households in 2008, reaching almost all (2.2 million) of the 2.3 million digital satellite homes in Ukraine.


The German version uses the word "baut," for "built," but somehow it got lost in the translation. The French version, well, nobody really cares about that one. I think they meant to write "boost."

Either way, the number of households receiving TV from ASTRA and Sirius satellites is probably ten times higher. Nobody will admit to hacking/cracking via Dreambox et. al.

And please spell the capital city of Ukraine correctly: KYIV.

Yah, What?

Monday, April 20th, 2009


Another brilliant brand from ASTRA: YahLive, a joint venture with Yahsat:

SES ASTRA has entered into a partnership with the Arab satellite operator Al Yah Satellite Communications Company (Yahsat) to create a new company operating under the YahLive brand that will offer Direct-to-Home (DTH) television capacity and services to more than two dozen countries in the Middle East, North Africa and South West Asia, a large region mainly including the Gulf states and the Maghreb.  

YahLive will offer DTH satellite services to free-to-air and pay-TV broadcasters in this region. It will own and commercialise 23 BSS-transponders on the Yahsat 1A spacecraft to be positioned at the 52.5 degrees East orbital position and operating in the Ku-band frequency. The satellite, procured from a consortium of EADS Astrium and Thales Alenia Space, is currently under construction and is scheduled to be launched by the fourth quarter of 2010.

Yahsat is a private joint stock company based in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and owned by Mubadala, the investment arm of the government of Abu Dhabi.

Read that press release as if it were a hip-hop rap, yah.

But since this is a "partnership," you’ve got to compromise. Mubadala gets its way. I suppose pissing off Eutelsat is worth it.

Satellite News Bits

Monday, April 20th, 2009

The week’s news, courtesy of Bill McDonald

Fox Pan American Sports to launch Spanish-language HD channel on Intelsat network.
[SatNews – 04/17/2009]

ASTRA signs reseller agreement with Towercom of the Czech Republic and Slovakia for its ASTRA2Connect broadband service.
[SatNews – 04/17/2009]

ATCi digital broadcast system combining MPEG4 and DVB-S2 designed for local channel and/or DMA extension enables cable operators to offer HD channels to all of their extended DMAs at great cost savings.
[SatNews – 04/17/2009]

Inmarsat completes acquisition of Stratos Global Corporation.
[SatNews – 04/16/2009]

Boeing ships IndoStarII/ProtoStar II satellite to Baiknour Cosmodrome for preparation for launch in May.
[SatNews – 04/16/2009]

Lockheed Martin is awarded multi-million dollar contract by SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation of Japan to build JCSAT-13, to be launched in 2013.
[PR Newswire – 04/16/2009]

Eutelsat moves Kabelkiosk digital cable platform to Eurobird 9A satellite.
[Satellite Today – 04/16/2009]

SpaceX tapped by Argentina’s National Commission on Space Activity for two launches aboard the Falcon 9 medium-to-heavy lift vehicle.
[SatNews – 04/16/2009]

Iridium announces certification of EMA Group’s BlueTraker Long-Range Identification and Tracking ship terminal to provide identification and tracking services over the Iridium satellite network.
[PR Newswire – 04/16/2009]

Sea Launch initiates countdown to launch of Telespazio’s SICRAL 1B satellite on April 20.
[SatNews – 04/16/2009]

WTA’s Members Forum on March 23 brought together executives of satellite carriers and teleport companies to discuss conflicts and suggest resolutions to prevent damage to the complex, profitable relationship between them – white paper to be published by WTA in second quarter.
[SatNews – 04/16/2009]

RaySat Broadcasting Corporation contracts with Intelsat to enable delivery of AT&T CruiseCast mobile TV service for family vehicles.
[Digital Facility – 04/15/2009]

SatLink acquires SES Astra 4A capacity to launch African DTH platform.
[Satellite Today – 04/15/2009]

TCS receives U.S. Army contract worth $14.9m to provide transportable ground terminals.
[Satellite Today – 04/15/2009]

Intelsat named Operator of the Year at 2009 SatCom Africa conference in Johannesburg, South Africa.
[SatNews – 04/15/2009]

Comtech EF Data wins $2.1m order for satellite communications equipment to upgrade existing battlefield systems to operate on Wideband Global Satcom system.
[SatNews – 04/15/2009]

The Internet Innovation Alliance, and the MSS & ATC Coalition of satellite companies, submit recommendations on how to best provide broadband to un-served and under-served areas in U.S. in hopes of earning broadband stimulus funding.
[Washington Business Journal – 04/15/2009]

China launches navigational satellite COMPASS, second in a series of as many as 30, to provide Chinese global positioning services.
[SatNews – 04/15/2009]

Canadian provider Juch-Tech signs contract with Viasat to expand VSAT services to Africa.
[Satellite Today – 04/14/2009]

China Satellite Communications Corp. is merged into China’s Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. as planned by the State Council, or Cabinet, of China.
[SatNews – 04/14/2009]

Second advanced EHF military communications satellite built by Lockheed Martin successfully completes environmental testing.
[PR Newswire – 04/14/2009]

Swe-Dish receives FCC license to operate its Drive-Away CCT120 on U.S. satellites.
[Satellite Today – 04/14/2009]

New Dawn Satellite Company, joint venture between Intelsat and South African investor group, awards launch contract for New Dawn satellite to Arianespace.
[SatNews – 04/14/2009]

Crawford Satellite Services enters Asian broadcast market, delivering All Sports Network, a live sports channel, in HD to Asian audiences.
[Satellite Today – 04/14/2009]

New U.S. rules allow U.S. companies to establish fiber-optic and satellite links to Cuba, and provide services directly to Cuban citizens.
[The Miami Herald – 04/13/2009]

PG&E considers beaming megawatts of solar power from space to earth; asks state regulators for permission to sign contract with stealth startup Solaren Corp. of Southern California.
[Wall Street Journal Business – 04/13/2009]

TerraStar and SkyTerra to launch three of largest commercial satellites in history this summer to support sat-link phones that will not be much larger than traditional mobile phones.  Complete with 3G radios, they will offer integrated cell-phone/satellite-phone operation.
[ – 04/13/2009]

Vandals cut AT&T fiber, leaving thousands in Silicon Valley and throughout San Francisco Bay area without phone, internet, or wireless service for more than 12  hours, again raising question – how secure is U.S. communications network?
[cnet news – 04/13/2009]

Iranian Mullahs’ satellite program discussed in interview of Dr. Sepehr B. Ariannia of the Marze Por Gohar Iranian nationalist political party by Front Page Magazine.
[ – 04/13/2009]

Harris wins $150m contract to deliver satellite multiband radios to the U.S. Army.
[Satellite Today – 04/13/2009]

Galaxy Broadband Communications selects Encore’s BANDIT&trade line of industrially hardened routers for their satellite networks, systems, and solutions in Canada, to provide Galaxy customers end-to-end VPNs across both satellite and terrestrial networks.
[TMCnet – 04/13/2009]

NSR Report details current capacity issues facing Sub-Saharan Africa; while shortages have faced region in past two years, relocating capacity, and newly planned satellites threaten oversupply in the coming years.
[NSR report – Global Assessment of Satellite Demand – April 2009]

NSR Tele-Briefing April 29 to discuss recurring theme of the satellite industry’s relative strength during global economic downturn, offering its insights into the industry and whether the industry should be optimistic, and where a more realistic take may be warranted.
[NSR Tele-Briefing scheduled for 04/29/2009]


DIY Friday: UAVs

Friday, April 17th, 2009

UAV: unmanned aerial vehicle. A radio-controlled aircraft that can fly itself.

Sounds cool, but where do you start? DIY Drones has a guide for newbies, including this flow chart. Make: has several entries, including this Arduino one.

Click here for more on the open-source Paparazzi auto pilot project.

Here’s the view from UAV:

RVOSD gen. 2 AHI + enhanced RTH from Vova Reznik on Vimeo.

And here’s the Wired Science program, seen on PBS: