Sputnik-99 launch cancelled by Swatch

Jean-Pierre Haigneré verifies the satellite's silence

If you are visiting this site for the first time and would like to know more about the background of this incident with Swatch, this page of media coverage of this event will point you in the right direction. These authors do an excellent job of impartially explaining the situation, especially if you're not an amateur radio operator and unfamiliar with some of the terms we use. If you still have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me at the address above.

By deceiving AMSAT organizations in Russia and France, the Russian SCSC (Space Flight Control Centre) in cooperation with the Swatch company had arranged to use the two meter Amateur band for direct advertising via the "Beatnik" satellite (a mini-Sputnik-99 project formerly to be known as RS-19) across the entire world. This was to be done in violation of the rules set down by the International Telecommunications Union which prohibit the use of amateur radio frequencies without a license and with a pecuniary interest.

On Thursday, April 15, 1999, thanks to the protests of amateur radio operators worldwide, Swatch cancelled this illegal mission!

I'm pleased to relay the message of French astronaut Jean-Pierre Haigneré here: Due to noncompliance to amateur regulations, instructions were received by the Mir crew to cancel the active launch of the rogue satellite and release it in the off position. Haigneré, an amateur radio operator himself, spoke directly to amateur radio operators from the Mir station this Sunday to alleviate concerns about the satellite's status.

This cancels the concern from earlier news reports by Associated Press and Reuters which had indicated a launch, contrary to the press releases of Swatch A.G.

Swatch indicated on April 16, 1999 in a full page ad in the New York Times that they had decided to assist the Spaceflight Control Centre and donate the batteries supporting the beatnik satellite to the MIR cosmonauts. While Haigneré's transmission does not directly contradict their statement, it indicates that noncompliance with the rules and regulations of the amateur radio service was indeed an issue, in spite of Swatch's attempts to sidestep that fact.

There was some confusion after Swatch said that they would donate the batteries who the satellite actually belonged to. According to a SpaceViews article, the Russian Space Agency built the RS-19 satellite to measure the behavior of small objects in the presence of the larger space station and contracted with AMSAT, to provide the amateur radio aspects. At this time I'm searching for further information on this matter, since it's still unclear how Swatch can legitimately claim ownership to any aspect of the RS-19.

This AMSAT France press release, Number 99-05 dated April 18, 1999 AMSAT France has indicated it's displeasure that instead of admitting their mistake, Swatch decided to kill the project and ask the astronauts not to activate the satellite and send it dead.

It is a real shame that they chose this path, when it could have just as easily returned it to the amateur radio operators who put so much time and effort into the construction and testing of the unit in preparation for what would have been a wonderful educational experience for students and astrophiles worldwide.


I've left a significant amount of the non-Swatch specific information on this site up for future reference. Although the situation with Swatch has been resolved, the fight will continue as long as commerical interests can see only the monetary value in our portions of the radio spectrum. I've learned quite a bit over the last two weeks, and I hope to pass that knowledge along to others in the future.


Go to Rob Carlson's homepage.

By Rob Carlson, KC2AEI and last updated on Tuesday, 26-Jul-2005 08:13:08 EDT.

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