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France Puts Hat In Ring To Launch Bangladesh’s Bangabandhu-2 Communications Satellite

French Ambassador to Bangladesh Jean-Marin Schuh meets Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Photograph courtesy of PID.

The newly-appointed French ambassador to Bangladesh has stated that his country is interested in assisting Bangladesh launch its second communications satellite, Bangabandhu-2, during an audience with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in late November 2019.

Ambassador Jean-Marin Schuh made the offer at his meeting with the Bangladeshi Prime Minister, and by doing so has heated up the competition for the lucrative satellite manufacturing and launch contracts for Bangabandhu-2.

In October 2019, a delegation from Russian launch services and satellite company Glavkosmos visited the Bangladeshi capital city Dhaka and pitched an offer to government and industry officials  to build and launch the country’s second communications satellite.

Vitaly Safonov, the deputy director-general of Glavkosmos, led a team of six satellite engineers on a fact-finding mission to Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital city. The Glavkosmos team were accompanied on their various meetings by Russia’s ambassador to Bangladesh, Alexander Ignatov.

The meetings were part of an effort to understand and ascertain Bangladeshi technical and commercial requirements for the Bangabandhu-2 satellite, and Glavkosmos is now understood to be conducting a feasibility study that will include recommended orbital slots, as well as a cost estimate for Bangladeshi officials to consider.

While in Dhaka Glavkosmos executives met with Mustafa Jabbar, Bangladesh’s Telecoms minister; Shahjahan Mahmood, Chairman of the Bangladesh Communications Satellite Company (BCSCL); Ashoke Kumar Biswas, the Bangladeshi Telecoms Secretary; and Mohammed Jahurul Haque, Chairman of the Bangladeshi Telecommunications Regulatory Commission.

Speaking to the Bangladeshi press about the Glavkosmos meetings, Telecoms minister Mustafa Jabbar said, “Actually, their meeting with me was an ice-breaking session. They have briefed us about the different kinds of satellites and we just told them we now have at least some experience about satellites and we want the second one to have an orbital position near our country.”

France has an established track record when it comes to Bangladesh, as Bangabandhu-1 was built by Thales Alenia Space. The French offer to launch Bangabandhu-2 has most probably been made on behalf of French satellite launch company Arianespace, who operate a large space launch facility in French Guiana.

Bangabandhu-1 was launched by SpaceX on a Falcon 9 satellite launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in May 2018. Bangabandhu-1, however, is on orbit at a location that is not directly over Bangladesh, hence the requirement for Bangabandhu-2.

Bangabandhu-2 has become a political issue in Bangladesh as the current government made an electoral promise that the satellite will be built and launched by 2023.

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