Azerbaijan Sends First Communications Satellite Into Space Today

Azerbaijan will launch its first communications satellite today, designed and built by Orbital Sciences Corp., as the Caspian Sea nation seeks to develop information technology to diversify its economy beyond energy.

The Azerspace/Africasat-1a satellite will provide communications services to Azerbaijan, Central Asia, Europe and Africa, the Dulles, Virginia-based company said on its website. Orbital is responsible for providing the satellite and ground system, it said.

The third largest oil-producer in the former Soviet Union will order a second satellite within two years of the first launch, Deputy Communications and Information Technology Minister Elmir Valizada said in a May 2011 interview. President Ilham Aliyev ordered his government to double the non-oil economy in the next decade as crude production declined for a second year in 2012.

The former Soviet republic’s Communications and Information Technology Ministry ordered the 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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