Bangladesh News Bangladesh plans Earth observation satellite, its second outpost in space

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Bangladesh is going ahead with its plan to have a second outpost in space after finalising that it will be an Earth observation satellite.​


Imagery from the satellite will enable the authorities to get a clear picture of floods or crops, and monitor large parts of the sea.
Shahjahan Mahmood, chairman of Bangladesh Communication Satellite Company Ltd, hopes it will be possible to launch the new satellite into space within the current tenure of the government. “We want to complete the work very fast."

An Earth observation satellite or Earth remote sensing satellite is a satellite used or designed for Earth observation from orbit, including spy satellites and similar ones intended for non-military uses such as environmental monitoring, meteorology and cartography.

Bangladesh’s first satellite, Bangabandhu-1, is a geostationary communication satellite, which is used for communication only. The satellite was sent into orbit from Kennedy Space Center in the US on May 12 and Bangladesh became the 57th country to send a satellite to space. Bangladesh got full control and ownership of the satellite six months after the launch.

The decision to pick an Earth observation satellite was based on a report made by PricewaterhouseCoopers, or PwC, the consultant for the second satellite, according to Shahjahan. Besides monitoring floods, crops and sea, it will be possible to use the satellite commercially by selling data on Central African and Middle Eastern countries that do not have such a satellite, he said. US-based Space Partnership International was the main consultant for the design of Bangabandhu-1. The satellite system was bought under a Tk 19.52 billion deal with France’s Thales Alenia Space.

Shahjahan said the cost will be lower for the second satellite as Bangladesh has ground station and other infrastructure. And Bangladesh will not need to pay for an orbital slot as the satellite will not be so far from Earth’s surface. It will be a Low Earth Orbit or LEO satellite. Bangabandhu-1 was sent to an orbital slot at 119.1 east longitude, 36,000 kilometres away from the launching station. Bangladesh rented the slot from Moscow-based Intersputnik International Organization of Space Communications for 45 years.

 

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The government is going to launch Bangabandhu Satellite-2 by 2023 with G2G (government to government) arrangement with Russia to meet its electoral manifesto despite around two-thirds of the capacity of the Bangabandhu Satellite-1 is still being unutilised.

According to Bangladesh Satellite Company Limited (BSCL), the estimated cost of the second satellite of the country is Tk3,707crore.

On 4 October, the preliminary development project proposal (PDPP) for Bangabandhu Satellite-2 was sent to the Planning Commission. After policy approval, the PDPP will then be sent to the Economic Relations Division (ERD) to start negotiations with the development partners.

According to the PDPP, with the launch of Bangabandhu Satellite-2, the country will become self-reliant in earth observation with optical and radar images and applications.

Official of the BSCL said, Bangladeshi security and law enforcing agencies need security images which are not commercially available. Many Bangladeshi government and non-government organisations cannot use remote sensing image for the complexity and dependency in purchasing images from abroad. Bangabandhu Satellite-2 will make that process easy.

Currently, all the government and non-government organisations have to collect images from foreign satellite operators which are, in some cases, not up to desired quality. The collection process is also complex in nature, they said.

With the launch of Bangabandhu Satellite-1 into space, in 2018, Bangladesh became the 57th country in the world to enter the elite club of satellites. It cost Tk2,902crore.

The Bangabandhu Satellite Company Ltd (BSCL) took operational charge of the first satellite in 2019, but despite existing demand, the agency is yet to lease out any bandwidth to foreign countries or companies due to a myriad of issues, low market rates being one of them.

"We are doing better than any other country in using the country's first satellite Bangabandhu-1. Now many companies in the country are using it. Campaigns are also underway in various countries around the world to increase its usage," Posts and Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar told The Business Standard.

"We are expecting the 100% use of Bangabandhu-1 to be achieved soon. In this continuity, it will be easier to use 100% of the second satellite of the country and commercial success will also come," he added.

On 8 June, a presentation on Bangabandhu Satellite-2 was made at a meeting of BSCL with the Prime Minister's Information and Communication Technology Affairs Adviser SajeebWazed. Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar and BSCL officials were also present at the meeting.

In this meeting, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC (PwC), an international consulting firm, presented several options for the new satellite from which "develop satellite systems providing both optical and SAR capabilities (15 optical and 1 SAR satellites)" was finally selected.

Although this option is less profitable commercially, it has been finalised considering the long-term demand and economic development of the country, BSCL officials said.

At the meeting, emphasis was laid on close monitoring during implementation to avoid delays in procuring Bangabandhu Satellite-2 from Russia.

A senior BSCL official said on condition of anonymity that the approval process for the Bangabandhu Satellite-2 project has been started as per the government's decision. "The project proposal will be sent to the ERD with the consent of the Planning Commission. The ERD will complete the financing process. Then the implementation will start."

According to ERD sources, in 2019, at the meeting of the Russia-Bangladesh Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation Commission, Russia expressed interest in cooperating in the launch of the second satellite of Bangladesh. The then ERD Secretary Monowar Ahmed led Bangladesh in the bilateral meeting held in Dhaka. Russia was represented by Deputy Minister of Agriculture Ilya V Shestakov.

However, officials from the ERD said that bilateral issues with Russia take time to progress. For this reason, discussions may be held with other development partners on the launch of Bangabandhu Satellite-2, besides Russia.

MirzaAshfaqur Rahman, joint secretary (Europe) of the ERD, said, "The Russia-Bangladesh Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation commission meeting is scheduled to be held this year. The meeting may discuss various issues including this. However, it has not been finalised yet."

 

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It will have more transponders for military too. I don't think the deal should be awarded to Russia. French or any other country should do it.
probably on a tight budget plus there are issues with french much prefer Italian (if available)

Russians have very good satcoms technology, GPS glonass etc.
Question: will this satellite be used to guide GPS guided munitions ?
 

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Official of the BSCL said, Bangladeshi security and law enforcing agencies need security images which are not commercially available. Many Bangladeshi government and non-government organisations cannot use remote sensing image for the complexity and dependency in purchasing images from abroad. Bangabandhu Satellite-2 will make that process easy.

Currently, all the government and non-government organisations have to collect images from foreign satellite operators which are, in some cases, not up to desired quality. The collection process is also complex in nature, they said.
Although this option is less profitable commercially, it has been finalised considering the long-term demand and economic development of the country, BSCL officials said.
However, officials from the ERD said that bilateral issues with Russia take time to progress. For this reason, discussions may be held with other development partners on the launch of Bangabandhu Satellite-2, besides Russia.

MirzaAshfaqur Rahman, joint secretary (Europe) of the ERD, said, "The Russia-Bangladesh Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation commission meeting is scheduled to be held this year. The meeting may discuss various issues including this. However, it has not been finalised yet."
SAR mapping , radar and optical equipment. sounds like a military satellite
probably on a tight budget plus there are issues with french much prefer Italian (if available)

The questions were already answered in the article. Looks like nothing is finalized with Russia yet. Wonder if we could buy it from Turkey.

 

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Bangladesh has signed a memorandum of cooperation with Russian space firm Glavkosmos for the country's second satellite Bangabandhu Satellite-2.

Bangladesh Communication Satellite Company Chairman Shahjahan Mahmood and Glavkosmos Director General Dmitry Loskutov signed the agreement virtually on behalf of their parties Wednesday.

Posts and Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar termed the agreement a new milestone. He said the government promised a third submarine cable, launch of 5G and Bangabandhu Satellite-2 in the 2018 national election.


The country entered the 5G era last year, while it has already signed a deal with a consortium for installation of the submarine cable.

"The third promise now sees the light through the signing of this memorandum," said the minister.

Mustafa Jabbar said Dhaka and Moscow have a strong bilateral relationship, and it would flourish further in future. Bangladesh Ambassador to Russia Kamrul Ahsan also echoed the same.

According to a press release of Glavkosmos, the memorandum comes into effect from the moment of signing and will be valid until 31 December 2026.

Referring to the documents, the subsidiary of the Russian State Space Corporation Roscosmos noted that the agreement covers manufacturing and launch of Bangabandhu Satellite-2.

It also covers manufacturing of ground infrastructure (satellite ground stations) for acquiring earth observation data from the Russian and foreign spacecraft, launch services, educational programmes in space domains, commercial orbital flights and consulting services.

Posts and Telecommunications Secretary Khalilur Rahman and Russian Ambassador to Dhaka Alexander Vikentyevich Mantytskiy were also present at the programme.

Bangladesh's first satellite Bangabandhu Satellite-1 was launched on 12 May 2018. French company Thales Alenia Space made the artificial satellite while it was launched from the United States.

 

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Bangladesh has signed an agreement with a Russian company for the country's second satellite, the Bangabandhu Satellite-2, at a cost of $435 million.

The Bangladesh Satellite Company Limited (BSCL) has signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Russian space firm Glavkosmos in this regard.

But, the agreed cost is way more than what the consultant had recommended – between $273 million to $333 million.

Also, the consultant had recommended a constellation of 15 satellites at that price, but the Russian option only has five.

It was a direct contract with the Russian company with no open tender process.

When contacted, Posts and Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar said Russia had huge experience and skills in this field to complete the project.

Regarding the consultancy firm's recommendation, Mustafa Jabbar said, "PricewaterhouseCoopers [PWC] submitted their report, but we had our own observations about which option was best for us."

Meanwhile, stakeholders and experts pointed out that 60% of the existing satellite's capacity remained unused and if this was the case for the new satellite, the desired outcome of the project would not be achieved.

In its election manifesto in 2018, the Bangladesh Awami League promised to launch Bangabandhu Satellite-2 in space before the 2023 national elections.

The BSCL appointed the PWC at a cost of Tk1.57 crore to suggest what the specifications of the next satellite would be and from where it would be procured.

Low power, less reach

After a long research on the different satellite options, user needs, market trends and return on the investment, the PWC recommended developing a constellation of satellites with both optical and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) capabilities.

The SAR is a technology that is capable of high-resolution remote sensing, independent of weather, and it can select frequencies to avoid weather-caused signal attenuation, apart from having day and night imaging capability.

The PWC recommended having 15 small satellites, each equipped with an Optical VHR (very high resolutions) payload and one medium-size satellite equipped with a SAR HR.

But the Russian firm's option will have five satellites, said Shahjahan Mahmood, chairman of the BSCL.

Experts fear that the fewer number of satellites will mean that those will not provide quality oceanography images and data for flood and drought monitoring.

However, Shahjahan said there would be an option to increase or decrease the number of satellites.

But that would come at a higher cost.

Furthermore, for Bangabandhu Satellite-1, Bangladesh purchased the orbital slot from Intersputnik, a Russian space communications company, for 15 years at a cost of Tk219 crore.

According to the agreement, Russia's Intersputnik is supposed to have a satellite coordination contract with 14 countries, including Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Cameroon, South Africa, Turkey and Honduras.

But Intersputnik has coordination contracts with only six of those countries – the Philippines, Cameroon, South Africa, Turkey and Honduras.

Sources at the BSCL said due to orbital slot coordination issues, after launching the orbit in 2018, it was not possible to sell the services abroad.

Meanwhile, India and Indonesia, among others, were having trouble getting landing rights due to taking Russian orbital slots.

Asked what Bangladesh is going to do, a high official at the satellite company said they have tabled the issue and Intersputnik has assured the BSCL of ensuring coordination with other countries to create business links for Bangladesh's first satellite.

Revenue, fears of delay

Experts say Bangladesh needs the first satellite to generate revenue before investing Tk3,000-4,000 crore on a new satellite.

"Before launching the satellite, we need to take the required preparations to ensure its complete usage," said Sumon Ahmed Sabir, an ICT and telecommunication expert.

Otherwise, Bangladesh will again suffer in selling the service abroad, he said.

BSCL Chairman Shahjahan Mahmood, however, expressed optimism about selling the service to foreign countries, along with ensuring domestic usage.

"The main purpose is to sell the additional capacity to other countries after our own usage. And we would be able to do that," he added.

Meanwhile, stakeholders doubt Russians will be able meet the 2023 deadline.

It will take them 3-5 years as they import satellite chips from US manufacturers and the USA has warned its manufacturers to prepare for an upcoming sanction to Russia.

In this regard, Mustafa Jabbar said, "Even if we are not able to launch the satellite by 2023, there will be a progress of 70-90%. But we have spun the wheel. Now the challenge is fund management and technical issues."

 

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The timely launching of the country's second satellite by a Russian company could face uncertainty amid sanctions imposed by the US and its allies to punish Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The Bangabandhu Satellite-2 project could face financial and technological hurdles.

In the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24, global payments messaging network SWIFT has asked Bangladesh's banks to suspend transactions with most Russian lenders.

The technological hurdle comes in the form of the US and its allies imposing a sanction on Russia's import of microchips.

"In the current situation, there could be an impact on launching the satellite within our targeted time," said Shahjahan Mahmood, chairman of the Bangladesh Satellite Company Ltd (BSCL).

The state-run BSCL, on February 2, signed a cooperation contract with Russian company Glavkosmos with the aim of launching the satellite by 2023.

Under the contract, Glavkosmos was tasked with manufacturing and launching the earth observation satellite for over $430 million.

"We are keeping this issue under observation. Since the entire scenario has not been totally revealed."

However, he said Moscow assured that the current crisis will have no impact on the project since most components are built by Russia internally.

Mustafa Jabbar, telecom minister, said they are evaluating the situation.

"After the evaluation, the decision will be made regarding the new satellite project. Besides, it is not only under my or my division's authority; it is a decision of the state.

"The project for the satellite is not a part of diplomacy; we are just taking a service from a company. So, national interest will be given the highest priority under the current situation," he added.

Economist Ahsan H Mansur said this project should be completely suspended.

"Making payments will be the challenge. If there is an embargo on the Russian company, then the local entities who deal with it would face sanctions," he added.

Even before the current crisis, Russia was unable to launch some satellites last year due to a lack of microchips that are on a list of restricted imports due to Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, Bloomberg reported in June last year citing state-owned news service Tass.

And now, any chip developed with American technology is prohibited from being sold to Russia under US President Joe Biden's new embargo announced after the invasion.

The ruling Awami League, in its election manifesto in 2018, pledged to launch Bangabandhu Satellite-2 by 2023.

IS A 2ND SATELLITE NEEDED?

The BSCL launched Bangabandhu Satellite-1, Bangladesh's first geostationary communication satellite, under a Tk 2,765 crore project.

Of the amount, HSBC Bank supplied a big chunk while the rest came from the government.

According to BSCL Chairman Mahmood, some capacity of the first satellite still remains unutilised.

Asked what would be the application of the second satellite, he said the main function of the second satellite will be to observe different regions of Bangladesh from above, including monitoring floods, crops, and vast offshore areas.

Experts have said that a second satellite is a bad idea when the first one is not profitable.

"Despite the BSCL being a state-run company, it has not been publishing its annual report. We don't know its profit, loss, and how it maintains its debt service," said Abu Saeed Khan, a senior policy fellow at LIRNEasia.

The second satellite is an unnecessary big investment since image service from the observatory satellite can be availed from commercial satellite service providers such as Maxar and Planet, he added.

Sources said the cost for the second satellite project is around $430 million, much higher than the recommendation of the consultant appointed by the government.

Mahmood said the price is just an estimation, it will be finalised when they will be able to determine the specification of the satellite.

 

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  • Contract for Bangabandhu Satellite-2 signed in Feb this year
  • Russia's Glavkosmos chosen to manufacture and launch the spacecraft
  • Western sanctions leave Moscow unable to continue making satellites
  • Authorities say they are observing the Russia-Ukraine war and the bans closely

With Western sanctions to punish Moscow for the invasion of Ukraine in place, the timely launching of Bangabandhu Satellite-2 by Bangladesh with the help of a Russian firm has become uncertain, according to officials.

The government has now adopted a "wait and see" position over firing the satellite as the Russia-Ukraine war shows no sign of coming to an end anytime soon.

"We wanted to launch the satellite before the next national election in late 2023. But the conflict has jeopardised the plan," Shahjahan Mahmood, chairman of the state-owned Bangladesh Satellite Company Limited (BSCL), told The Business Standard.

He said the authorities have asked them to wait and observe the situation.

The BSCL and Glavkosmos, a subsidiary of Russia's state-owned space agency Roscosmos, signed a cooperation contract in February this year for making and launching Bangladesh's second satellite.


Shahjahan Mahmood told TBS that there has been no progress since the contract signing, while a number of BSCL officials on condition of anonymity said the project will not make any headway until the Western sanctions are lifted.

Special chips are required to build and launch satellites. Moscow is unable to import the chips due to the sanctions. Besides, there are bars on global financial transactions with Moscow, making Russia's isolation on earth also broadening out into space.

Apart from manufacturing and launching the satellite into orbit, Bangladesh's contract with Russia covers developing satellite ground stations for acquiring earth observation data, commercial orbital flights and consultations.

The main task of the satellite will be observing different parts of the country from space. Officials said Bangladesh needs the satellite as the country in recent years has reclaimed a vast swathe in the Bay that requires monitoring.

They also said the satellite will help better predict floods and acquire data regarding agriculture.

According to the BSCL, the estimated cost of the second satellite is Tk3,707 crore.

In 2018, Bangladesh launched Bangabandhu Satellite-1 through the European aerospace manufacturer Thales Alenia Space. The making and launching of the satellite cost the country around Tk3,000 crore.

Was Russia the right choice?

For launching the satellite, Bangladesh received several proposals from different European and American firms, including the Germany-based Airbus Defence and Space.

In January this year, the United States warned its chip industry beforehand to be prepared for new sanctions on chip exports to Russia.

In June 2021, Dmitry Rogozin, head of Russia's state-owned space agency Roscosmos, told Moscow that Russia was unable to launch some satellites due to international restrictions on chip imports.

The United States and Europe imposed sanctions on Russia following its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Russia's state-owned news agency TASS quoted Rogozin as saying, "We have enough rockets. But we are not in a position to send them into space."

But Bangladesh picked the Russian space firm, brushing aside increasing concerns over a Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Mustafa Jabbar, minister of posts, telecommunications & information technology, said the government is now observing the situation.

"Following the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, we sent Moscow some queries as to whether they would be able to manufacture the satellite for us. They have replied to some of our inquiries and some are still pending," he told TBS on Tuesday.

After the contract signing in February, the minister said the government chose Russia as the option seemed to be the best for Bangladesh.

"The government has decided to implement the project through the Russian Federation and it is fixed. Russia has huge experience and skills in this field," he told TBS.

"I think Russia is the best choice for the technology we are now going for," he added.

Asked whether it was possible to have contracts with multiple manufacturers at the same time, Mustafa Jabbar replied in the negative.

He said the government cannot sign a second memorandum of cooperation (MoC) with others while having such a contract with the Russian firm.

Bangladesh was already running late

According to the political commitment of the ruling Awami League, the second satellite is supposed to make round-ups in space orbit before 2024.

For Bangabandhu Satellite-1, the purchasing agreement with the French company took place 30 months prior to its launch from the US. The memorandum of understanding had been signed even earlier.

But when the country signed the contract with Russia for Bangabandhu Satellite-2, some 20 months were left for the manufacturing and launching of the satellite.

In other words, the project might already miss the national polls deadline even if the Russia-Ukraine war had not broken out.

Minister Mustafa Jabbar agrees that there has already been a delay. "If the conflict did not happen, we might have been able to complete 60%-70% of the work before the next national election."

OneWeb, a satellite Internet company partly owned by the British government, in March this year cancelled an upcoming satellite launch using a Russian rocket and suspended all future launches that relied on Russia.

The British firm subsequently signed a deal with Elon Musk's SpaceX, formally Space Exploration Technologies Corp, to provide launch services later this year.

Like OneWeb, some other countries have been turning away from Russia following the barrage of sanctions by the West on Moscow. In retaliation, Russia halted deliveries and effectively seized property from Western customers.

The Russian retaliatory measures, however, have opened the door for US and European firms such as SpaceX, Rocket Lab USA Inc and Arianespace SA to come into the scene.

 

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Bangladesh will procure three earth observatory satellites from Russia. Is Bangabandhu Satellite-2 one of them? 🤔

https://www.channel24bd.tv/channel24-special/article/161277/‘জ্বালানি-সংকট-কাটাতে-ভারত-পাকিস্তান-ও-শ্রীলঙ্কার-পথে-হাঁটতে-পারে-বাংলাদেশ’-ভিডিও-

 
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International spacecraft construction company Airbus has expressed interest in supporting Bangladesh with the construction and launch of Bangabandhu Satellite-2.

A three-member delegation from Airbus, led by Guillaume Audren de Kerdrel, deputy head of Mission of the French Embassy in Bangladesh, met with Posts and Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar at the Bangladesh Secretariat on Sunday.

During the meeting, Airbus expressed their interest and discussed various aspects related to Bangabandhu Satellite-2, including construction, launch, orbital slot allocation, and the satellite type.

Mustafa Jabbar said: "The successful launch of Bangabandhu Satellite-1 is one of the achievements of the present government. Bangladesh has become the 57th proud member of the Satellite Club. Bangabandhu Satellite-1 is playing an unprecedented role in establishing digital connectivity in remote areas, including broadcasting TV channels and ensuring uninterrupted connectivity during disasters."

Highlighting the need for Bangabandhu Satellite-2, the minister said: "It will be an Earth Observatory satellite."

"We are implementing the launch of the country's second satellite as per the government's election manifesto. Bangladesh entered the 5G era on December 12, 2021, following the implementation of the 2018 manifesto. Work is underway for a third submarine cable connection," the minister said.

The minister also recalled France's contribution in the construction and launch of Bangabandhu Satellite-1. The deputy head of Mission appreciated Bangladesh's progress in the development of digital technology.

 

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Letter of Intent (LOI) was signed on Cooperation between Bangladesh Satellite Company Limited (BSCL) and Airbus Defence and Space SAS, France related to Bangabandhu-2 Earth Observation Satellite System.

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