ARRL Satellite Bulletin ARLS002 (1999)

ARLS002 ARRL Advises Swatch to Cancel "Beatnik" Launch

QST de W1AW  
Space Bulletin 002  ARLS002
From ARRL Headquarters  
Newington, CT  April 7, 1999
To all radio amateurs

ARLS002 ARRL Advises Swatch to Cancel "Beatnik" Launch

The ARRL has weighed into the burgeoning controversy over messages
gathered by the Swatch watch company and programmed for transmission
on 2 meters from the mini-Sputnik satellite. In a fax today, League
Executive Vice President David Sumner, K1ZZ, suggested to Swatch
Group CEO Nicolas E. Hayek that the Swiss firm cancel the launch of
the "Beatnik" satellite and use a commercial satellite for its
project instead.

"The Amateur Radio community must stand against the 'Beatnik'
satellite because it represents such an undesirable precedent,"
Sumner said. He proposed that Swatch cancel the launch, planned for
April 16 from the Russian Mir space station, and fulfill its
commitment to transmit messages from space using excess capacity on
a commercial satellite.

Over the past week, an increasing number of voices from among the
amateur community have been raised in protest against plans for the
mini-Sputnik to transmit messages related to the Swatch company's
campaign to establish the "Swatch Beat" as a new "global concept of
time." Via its Web site, Swatch reports it has solicited more than
5000 messages--including voice and text files--for possible
transmission on the new satellite. Messages selected for use were
supposed to include a reference to the "beat" theme.

Sumner pointed out that international regulations define the amateur
service as one engaged in by "duly authorized persons interested in
radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary
interest." He told Swatch that canceling the launch and owning up to
its mistake would "go a very long way toward repairing the damage
that has been done to your company's image."

Swatch has acknowledged the amateurs' complaints and has included
several on its Web site. It also has opened an e-mail comment box to
gather opinions on "Should we send your messages into space?" But
the company says the messages the satellite will send "are not
advertising and do not contain the brand name Swatch." The company
asserts that its campaign also provides "a great opportunity for
Amateur Radio to gain an even wider audience." The company has
promised to post the "final list" of messages sent for transmission
by the satellite.

AMSAT-France has distanced itself from the soon-to-be-launched
mini-Sputnik. AMSAT-France President Bernard Pidoux, F6BVP, has
apologized for AMSAT-France's role in the situation and called on
AMSAT organizations to refrain from describing the satellite's
messages and to discourage listening "to this nonamateur-compliant
satellite using our amateur band." AMSAT-France had contracted with
AMSAT-Russia--with help from the Russian Space Flight Control Center
(SCSC)--to build the RF and electronics modules for the new
satellite. AMSAT-Russia was responsible for building the satellite
frame, integrating the electronics, and programming the messages the
satellite would transmit on 2-meters, Pidoux said.

After the contract was signed, Pidoux said, AMSAT-France found out
that the SCSC had made a separate commercial contract with Swatch to
put its "beat" messages on the satellite. AMSAT-France protested,
citing contract provisions prohibiting "direct advertising" on the
air, but it completed its part of the contract to avoid a lawsuit,
Pidoux said.

AMSAT-Russia President Eugene Labutin, RA3APR, said the Space Flight
Control Center signed the Swatch contract "under the name of
AMSAT-R" and did not inform AMSAT-Russia what they were doing. He
apologized on behalf of AMSAT-Russia.

The new Sputnik-99 satellite arrived on Mir aboard a Progress rocket
April 4. It will carry a 100-mW transmitter and transmit on or about
145.815 MHz. The satellite will have an approximately 30-day life
span. It will be able to transmit up to 10 different voice messages
in addition to digital messages and telemetry. Data will include
battery voltage and internal temperature.