Register Account

Login Help

ARRL Satellite Bulletin ARLS003 (1999)

ARLS003 Swatch Beats Awkward Retreat: Sputnik Won't Fly

QST de W1AW  
Space Bulletin 003  ARLS003
From ARRL Headquarters  
Newington, CT  April 16, 1999
To all radio amateurs

ARLS003 Swatch Beats Awkward Retreat: Sputnik Won't Fly

Swatch Watch says the ''Beatnik'' satellite will not be sent into
space April 16 from the Russian Mir space station as planned.

The company announced early today on its Web site,, that the controversial
messages the satellite was to have transmitted on the 2-meter
amateur band instead will be read by a Russian cosmonaut aboard Mir
during an April 22 videoconference, to be broadcast via its Internet

The controversial messages, gathered via the Swatch Web site,
related to the Swatch company's campaign to establish the ''Swatch
Beat'' as a new ''global concept of time.'' Swatch had 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.

But Amateur Radio operators around the world, citing international
regulations, protested the plans because of their commercial

Swatch attributed the cancellation of its Beatnik satellite to the
recent failure of the Luch 1/Gelios satellite the Mir crew uses for
communication with Earth. The failure was reported on April 12.
''Swatch has decided to assist the Spaceflight Control Centre and
donate the batteries supporting the Beatnik satellite to the Mir
cosmonauts, thus canceling the possibility of any radio transmission
from space,'' Swatch said in a brief statement on its Web site.

Full-page ads in today's New York Times and Los Angeles Times to
announce the change in plans expand on the battery swap explanation.
According to the Times ads, cosmonauts will use the batteries to run
an onboard printer ''which is the lifeline to earth through which the
Cosmonauts receive their daily instructions and key operations

The ARRL weighed into the Beatnik satellite controversy April 7 by
suggesting to Swatch Group CEO Nicolas E. Hayek that the Swiss firm
cancel the launch and use a commercial satellite for its project
instead. ARRL Executive Vice President David Sumner, K1ZZ, noted
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.''

Although Swatch asserted that its messages were not advertising,
Sumner pointed out to Hayek that the commercial nature of the
arrangements to transmit the messages on amateur frequencies was
contrary to international law. ''I think this was a new thought to
him, frankly, because this is not the way they had been viewing it,''
Sumner said.

It's not yet known what will become of the mini-Sputnik itself.
AMSAT-France, had contracted with AMSAT-Russia to build the
electronics for the mini-Sputnik. After learning of the Swatch
contract, AMSAT-F distanced itself from the project and apologized
for its involvement. AMSAT-Russia President Eugene Labutin, RA3APR,
also apologized, saying the arrangements with Swatch were made
without AMSAT-Russia's knowledge.

The new Sputnik-99 satellite arrived on Mir aboard a Progress rocket
April 4 and had been set to launch April 16 during a space walk.


Instragram     Facebook     Twitter     YouTube     LinkedIn