PARIS — The government of Bangladesh on Nov. 11 contracted with manufacturer Thales Alenia Space to build the Bangabandhu-1 telecommunications satellite, ushering a new nation into the large group of Asian countries with their own national satellite capacity.
France- an Italy-based Thales Alenia Space bested a field of competitors that included Orbital ATK of the United States; MDA Corp. of Canada, teamed with its Space Systems/Loral builder in the United States; and China Great Wall Industry Corp. of Beijing.
The contract, valued at $248 million, includes the construction of the 3,500-kilogram Bangabandhu-1, its launch — likely aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket — and the associated ground segment including satellite control and network operations centers. Loan guarantees have been provided by the French export credit agency, Coface.
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) said the project’s goal is to launch the satellite on Dec. 16, 2017, a national holiday. Thales Alenia Space said it is aiming for a late-2017 launch.
Bangladesh has had difficulty securing an orbital slot for its satellite and ultimately purchased rights to 119.1 degrees east from the international Intersputnik organization of Moscow. The 15-year, renewable lease is valued at about $27.5 million and was concluded in January.
Bangladesh has until late 2018 to place the satellite into its intended orbital position according to International Telecommunication Union regulations, although the regulator has been known to extend deadlines if nations have demonstrated they are building a satellite for the relevant slots.
Bangabandhu-1, based on Thales Alenia Space’s Spacebus 4000B2 platform, will carry 26 Ku- and 14 C-band transponders to provide telecommunications services in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Indonesia.
BTRC officials have said owning the satellite will save Bangladesh some $14 million spent annually on leases of commercial bandwidth. They intend to use half the satellite’s capacity for domestic purposes, and to create a private company to commercialize the remaining capacity in the region.
“The contract … marks a major turning point in the history of Bangladesh, not only in reducing the digital divide, but also generating business development and creating jobs,” BTRC Bangabandhu Project Director Golam Razzaque said in a statement.