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First Azeri Satellite Launched, Two More Planned in 2015-2016

Azerbaijan launched its first communications satellite as the oil-rich former Soviet republic seeks to develop information technology to diversify its economy beyond energy.

The third largest oil-producer in the former Soviet Union plans to launch two more communications satellite in 2015 and 2016, President Ilham Aliyev said today in an address to the nation, according to state news agency Azartac.

The Azerspace/Africasat-1a satellite was carried into orbit by a Arianespace Inc. spacecraft at 6:36 p.m. in Cayenne, French Guiana, yesterday, the company said on its website.

The Azerspace/Africasat-1a will provide communications services to Azerbaijan, Central Asia, Europe and Africa, said Orbital Sciences Corp., the Dulles, Virginia-based company that designed and built the satellite. Orbital will be responsible for providing the satellite and ground systems, it said.

Aliyev has ordered his government to double the non-oil sectors of the economy in the next decade as crude production declined for a second year in 2012.

The Caspian Sea nation’s Communications and Information Technology Ministry ordered its first satellite in June 2010, under a contract worth $205 million, according to the Azeri embassy in Washington. It will transmit from an orbital location at 46 degrees east longitude, Orbital said.

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