News from the 64th International Astronautical Congress | Astrium Contract Boosts Kazakhstan’s Satellite Efforts

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BEIJING — The Kazakh government is on track to leverage its contract with Astrium of Europe into an ability to build and operate optical Earth observation satellites, according to the company managing the work.

Vladimir V. Ten, deputy director for Earth observation systems of Kazakhstan Gharysh Sapary, said the two satellites the company ordered from Astrium of France and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) of Britain are both scheduled for launch, on different rockets, in the first half of 2014.

The satellites and a major technology-transfer program under which around 40 Kazakh engineers are trained by Astrium in building and operating Earth observation spacecraft were part of an October 2009 contract valued at around $336 million that was endorsed by the Kazakh and French governments.

In a Sept. 24 presentation to the 64th International Astronautical Congress in Beijing, Ten said the two satellites — Astrium’s with a 1-meter imager, SSTL’s with a 6.5-meter resolution, a wider swath and several multispectral bands — are mainly to be used to survey Kazakh territory. A secondary function is to jump-start Kazakhstan’s domestic space-engineering industrial base.

Kazakhstan’s space presence up to now has been mainly limited to its ownership of the Russian-run Baikonur Cosmodrome.

But Ten said the two Earth observation satellites also could be used to enter the commercial market for satellite data as a partner to Astrium Geo-Information Services, which in addition to its own Spot 6 and future Spot 7 satellites has commercial partnerships with national satellite systems in several nations.

The SSTL satellite is being built to permit its entry into the image distribution chain of the German-Canadian RapidEye constellation of commercial imaging spacecraft, which were also built by SSTL.

Ten said the Astrium-built high-resolution satellite — a 1-meter ground sampling distance was a contract requirement — uses the same basic satellite skeletal structure as Astrium satellites built for Algeria, Vietnam, Thailand and Taiwan in addition to Astrium’s Spot spacecraft.