Azerbaijan Firms Up Satellite Contract with Orbital Sciences

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PARIS — The government of Azerbaijan has contracted with Orbital Sciences Corp. to build the nation’s first telecommunications satellite following an agreement between Azeri authorities and Malaysia’s Measat satellite operator on sharing an orbital slot, the Azeri government and Orbital Sciences said.

The Azersat spacecraft will be launched in 2012 into the 46 degrees east longitude orbital position now occupied by Measat’s Africasat 1 spacecraft.

Orbital spokesman Barron Beneski confirmed May 28 that a firm contract, which had been in negotiations for months, was signed May 27 for the construction of Azersat.

The Azeri government had concluded an agreement with Measat May 25 on what Measat said was “joint development” of the 46 degrees east position. Measat officials did not immediately respond to questions about what role, if any, the Malaysian operator would play in the development or operation of Azersat, and how the satellite’s payload use would be divided.

Azerbaijan views the Azersat satellite, whose manufacture, launch and insurance are estimated to cost around $200 million, as the first pillar of what it intends as a new national space program coordinated by a space agency, called Azercosmos.

An Azersat launch contract has not yet been signed, but industry officials have said a Russian-Ukrainian Zenit rocket launched from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan is the most likely choice.