PARIS — Franco-Italian satellite builder Thales Alenia Space and its long-time Russian partner, ISS-Reshetnev, announced Feb. 28 the creation of a joint-venture company in Russia to strengthen their ability to win Russian, and later international, telecommunications satellite contracts.

The new company, Universum Space Technologies, will be majority-owned by ISS-Reshetnev and located at the Russian satellite builder’s headquarters in Krasnoyarsk. The company’s signing ceremony in Moscow was witnessed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Francois Hollande.

Thales Alenia Space has been working with ISS-Reshetnev since the mid-1990s and the two companies have built some 20 telecommunications satellites together, both for the Russian market and for a small number of export customers.

The joint venture’s first order of business will be to position ISS-Reshetnev to win bids for Russian government satellites expected to be ordered in the next couple of years. One industry official said the big growth in Russian commercial telecommunications is about done, with Russia’s two commercial fleet operators winding down their fleet expansions except to replace satellites that failed in recent rocket failures.

But the Russian government has several near-term government telecommunications programs and has made clear its preference for Russian-built hardware. The government also has stressed the need for Russia’s satellite builders to approach the technical level of U.S. and European builders.

“Creating the joint venture enabling us to manufacture some payload components domestically, we expect to get access to a new niche in the Russian market and abroad,” ISS-Reshetnev General Director Nikolay Testoedov said in a statement announcing the new company.

A Thales Alenia Space official said the new company will open a market to the European company — Russian government satellites — that had been all but closed to it despite its participation in several government satellite programs including Russia’s Luch data-relay spacecraft.

“The joint venture we have created today will enable us to assemble, integrate and test telecom satellite equipment that meets the most exacting standards, thus driving a significant increase in our business volume,” Thales Alenia Space Chief Executive Jean Loic Galle said in a statement.

Peter B. de Selding was the Paris Bureau Chief for SpaceNews.