Azerbaijan’s aerospace industry is gearing up to witness the launch of a second geostationary communications satellite dubbed Azerspace-2/Intelsat-38, which will be sent into space from the Kourou space center, located in the South American country of French Guiana, next year.
Construction of the Azerspace-2 satellite is in its final stages of completion, and about 90 percent complete, according to reporting by Trend news agency.
"The construction work will be completed in January 2018. The launch of the satellite is scheduled for the first half of the year,” a source in the Azerbaijani satellite communications market told Trend.
Azerspace-2 is telecommunication satellite with a 15-year lifespan that will cover Europe, the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and Central and South Asia. The California-based aerospace industry company Space Systems/Loral (SS/L), a subsidiary corporation of the parent company MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, is the manufacturer of the satellite.
French Guiana, although half-a-world away from Azerbaijan, is considered an ideal location for launching satellites and spacecraft for two reasons. First, the country is near the equator, meaning less energy is required to maneuver a spacecraft into an equatorial, geostationary orbit. Second, because the country has a coastline to its east, it provides a natural safety mechanism in the case launch failures that result in falling debris.
Azerbaijan’s first satellite, dubbed Azerspace-1/Africasat-1a, was launched from the site in February of 2013 by the French satellite launch company Arianespace. The spacecraft was designed, built, and tested by Orbital Sciences Corporation, a Virginia-based technology company specializing in satellite and space-launch systems.
Azerspace-1 delivers a wide range of communications services for Azerbaijan, as well as 50 countries throughout Central Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Between June and July of 2013, it generated a $5 million profit for Azerbaijan’s state budget, and is expected to net the government’s exchequer a total of $600 million over the course of its 15-year lifespan.
With Ku-band transponders, the Azerspace-2 satellite is considered an upgrade to Azerspace-1. It will provide digital TV and radio broadcasting services, data transmission, ensure high-quality, non-stop communication, and support the satellite broadcasting platform DTH (Direct-to-Home), which will motivate the launch of DTH-operators in Azerbaijan. DTH enables a TV broadcast via receiving satellite waves through signals transmitted from direct-broadcast satellites.
Arianespace is one of the world’s leading space launcher enterprises, and will send off the second communication satellite via the Ariane 5 ECA rocket carrier, a heavy-lift launch vehicle based on an expendable launch system used to deliver payloads into geostationary transfer orbit or low Earth orbit.
Azerbaijan’s aerospace industry began with the signing of two consecutive orders by President Ilham Aliyev, in 2008 and 2009, that instructed the government to establish a space industry that can deploy telecommunications satellites into orbit, which will provide top-notch telecommunications services to Azerbaijan’s residents.
In May 2010, the state-run Azercosmos Company, the only satellite operator in Caucasus, was established. Three years later, in February 2013, Azercosmos sponsored the launch of Azerspace /Africasat-1a at a cost of about $203 million.