April 12 marks World Cosmonautics Day. This memorable date is dedicated to the first manned flight in space – it was a citizen of the Soviet Union, Senior Lieutenant Yuri Gagarin, who on this day in 1961 on the Vostok spacecraft for the first time in the world made a circumnavigation flight around Earth, opening an era of manned spaceflight. This holiday is also celebrated in Azerbaijan, which secured the image of a member of the space club by launching the third satellite into orbit at the end of 2018.
In 1975, at the initiative of the national leader Heydar Aliyev, the Aerospace Agency was established in Azerbaijan, which is still active today. The Agency was engaged in basic scientific research, development of spacecraft instruments. The activities of the Scientific Institute during the Soviet era were very successful: units created by Azerbaijani scientists and specialists were installed on the Mir orbit station and other satellites.
However, Azerbaijan began to make a major breakthrough in this area ten years ago, when President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree on a state program for the development of the country’s space industry. One year later, Azerbaijan’s OJSC was established, with the aim of launching and operating Azerbaijan’s telecommunications satellites. The main satellite control center is located at the 37th kilometer of the Baku-Shamakhi highway, and the backup is in the territory of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (Nekhedzhir village, Julfa region). Thus, Azercosmos became the first satellite operator in the Caucasus region.
The launch of “Azerspace-1” – Azerbaijan’s first satellite – took place on February 8, 2013 and became an important event for both the country and the entire region. Today, it provides telecommunications services in Africa, Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe. The second Azerbaijani satellite, the Azersky low-orbit (Spot 7), was launched in 2014 and provides services worldwide, including to the largest US companies, including Google and others. Azersky has a wide range of applications – protection and security, emergency preparedness, natural resource research, maritime surveillance, shipping, environmental protection, urban planning, cartography, agriculture and tourism.
And today, Azerbaijan boasts its third satellite. In September 2018, Azerspace-2 was successfully launched into orbit from the Guyana Space Center in French Guiana. It is manufactured by the American company Space Systems / Loral (SSL) based on the very reliable SSL 1300 satellite platform. Its cost is about 190 million dollars, the operating time is about 20 years, and during this time the satellite should provide revenue of 400 million dollars to the country’s economy.
Azerspace-2 has a high technical capacity, a favorable coverage area and offers high quality services to meet the growing needs in the field of network services for public and private structures in the region. Even before the launch into orbit, 46% of its capacity had already been sold to Intelsat, which ensured that 60% of the project cost and financial costs were reimbursed. Azerspace-2 started commercial operations on February 1 and has strengthened its position and further strengthened Azercosmo’s position in the highly competitive market for satellite services.
At the end of last year, the President of Azerbaijan approved the state program for 2019-2022 for the development of domestic satellite services. This document gave a new impetus to the development of the use of satellite observation data by various government agencies and private companies to solve a number of important economic problems, in particular environment, environment, agriculture, emergencies, urban planning, transport communications, etc. Azerbaijan could launch three satellites in orbit. Azerbaijan is today a member of the space club and strengthens its positions in the space industry. Putting satellites into orbit shows the strength of our state, our policy, “said President Ilham Aliyev.