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Azerbaijan launches third satellite: A victory or overspending?

$192 million sent into outer space

Azerbaijan’s latest telecommunications satellite, the Azerspace-2, has launched into orbit from Kourou, French Guiana.

The country’s third satellite following the launch of the Azerspace-1 in 2013 and the low-orbit satellite Azersky, Azerspace-2 is expected to operate for the next 15 years. The satellite will cover Europe, Central and Southeastern Asia, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, allowing Azeri satellite operator Azerkosmos to expand its reach. It will also serve as a back-up satellite for Azerspace-1 operations.

The project cost the country nearly $192 million. The financing is made possible via a long-term discounted line of credit provided by the Canadian government’s Export Development Canada (EDC) agency.

President Ilham Aliyev congratulated the people of Azerbaijan and described the benefits of launching the new satellite, to name a few:

  • Azeri television broadcasters can now offer their programming to the world;
  • International cooperation in the space industry will grow;
  • It will allow Azerbaijan to observe events anywhere on earth, not just at home;
  • The new satellite will strengthen the country’s military potential.

“Launching Azerspace 2 is yet another historic victory for us. Looking forward, Azerbaijan will continue on the same path of successes and victories,” said the president.

Experts and others have taken to online platforms to discuss mainly the financial aspect of the launch.

Economist Natiq Jafarli is skeptical on the issue. He claims that the maintenance of Azerspace-2 alone will cost 5 to 10 million Azeri manats ($3-6 million) a year. Keeping this in mind, he writes that the previously launched satellites earn only 10 million manats annually and will be obsolete within 15 years or less.

“Had these satellites served defensive functions, they would be justified. But for now, the biggest benefit reaped is that they managed to ‘discover’ 33 hectares of unused land in Sheki [a town in the north of Azerbaijan]. Give 100 manats to any of the Sheki shepherds, and they’ll show Azerkosmos 500 unused hectares,” the economist said.

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