Bangladesh’s Space Victory: A New Era Begins

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Published on May 15, 2018
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Bappy Rahman

Finally, the very first satellite of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Satellite-1, successfully took off from Cape Canaveral launch site onboard a SpaceX Falcon9 rocket. It was a very historical and exciting moment for the entire nation of Bangladesh to watch its very first satellite taking off for space successfully.

This telecommunications and Broadcasting satellite is targeted to narrow the digital divide, as it will take broadcasting and telecommunication services to rural areas and introduce profitable services, including direct-to-home services, across the country and over the region. This satellite, which carries the symbolic name of the father of the nation, Bangabandhu-1, is a major step forward for telecommunications in Bangladesh, and a fantastic driver of economic development and heightened recognition across Asia.

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) is the first customer for the Falcon 9 Block 5-SpaceX’s final and most powerful version of the rocket. The Falcon 9 Block 5 includes upgrades to meet NASA commercial crew requirements and U.S. Defense Department criteria. The Block 5 is designed for 10 or more flights using the same first stage booster; previous versions were only designed to handle two or three flights. The Falcon-9 rocket has four parts, with the satellite on the top, followed by the adaptor. Below the adaptor is Stage-2 of the rocket, while the lowest section is Stage-1. At one point, the Stage-1 rockets will be jettisoned and fall back to Earth.Bangabandhu-1 blasted into space. With the launch of Bangabandhu-1, Bangladesh has entered the 57-member prestigious satellite club. Bangladesh has entered a new era with the launching of the Bangabandhu-1 satellite. The Bangabandhu-1 satellite has 40 transponders. Bangladesh will use 20 of those, saving around $14 million a year now spent on hiring the service from foreign countries. The remaining 20 transponders will be rented out.

The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved the satellite project in 2015. In November 2015, BTRC signed a $248-million deal with Thales Alenia Space to manufacture and launch the satellite.The orbital slot for the satellite was bought from Russian company “Intersputnik” at $28 million in January 2015. Currently Bangladesh spends some $14 million per year renting satellite time from other countries, something they determined to stop doing as a matter of national pride and independence. Once operational, BTRC is expected to rent out satellite services to Nepal and Bhutan, among others, using 20 of the 40 transponders on board. Although Bangabandhu-1 is definitely important, especially to the nation launching it, it is not necessarily in itself a highly notable satellite. It’s to be a geostationary communications hub that serves the whole country and region with standard C-band and Ku-band connectivity for all kinds of purposes.

Today almost all the modern and enlightened nations have their own satellite in the orbit. A sovereign country, in a pursuit of sustainable development, needs its own satellite in order to reduce its dependency on other nations. BTRC started working with the vision to open new dimension of possibility in the telecommunication sector of Bangladesh by launching its first ever satellite. Preliminary implementation activities are in progress with the consultation of USA based consultancy firm Space Partnership International (SPI) and specialist advice of International Telecommunication Union (ITU). A country like Bangladesh is highly exposed to natural disaster risk because of its unique geographical location. Telecommunication system is Bangladesh has always been suffering from interruptions and problems as erratic disasters hit the country. During such emergency situation, Satellite network can play an important role in ensuring uninterrupted telecommunication services in Bangladesh.

The first major benefit Bangladesh will get is meteorological forecast. Bangladesh will get more accurate data and images through this satellite. It will help Bangladesh in disaster management and preparedness. In broader context, the people of the country will get three types of benefits from this satellite: First, the ability to sell this satellite will allow foreign exchange revenue and savings. Second, it will be possible to expand the Internet and telecommunications services in the remote areas of the country. This satellite will play an important role in controlling the condition and management of the satellite, and it is also possible to use the satellite to ensure national security.

The solar-powered satellite will venture into geostationary orbit around Earth to offer radio, internet and worldwide television broadcasts to rural areas throughout the country for the first time.Currently, television channels of the country are being operated with satellite rentals from different countries including Singapore. For this, the expenditure is approximately 125 crore taka The cost will be reduced when Bangabandhu-1 Satellite is operated. At the same time the country's money will remain in the country.There is also the possibility of foreign currency earnings by renting satellite waves.In addition to television channels, 40 types of services, including Internet service providers, V-Sat and Wireless, will be available through this satellite.

Although any type of natural disaster is damaged by tertiary infrastructures, Bangabandhu-1 will ensure the e-service as a continuous communication system and an environment communication medium in the satellite country.When the satellites are fully operational, all types of services, including the Ground System of Geoscipronas Satellite System, will be available to provide telecommunication and broadcasting services in some of the surrounding countries.

Bangladesh receives test signal from Bangabandhu-1 satellite. The ground station for Bangabandhu-1 in Gazipur has received test signals from Bangladesh’s first satellitean hour and 10 minutes after SpaceX launched a rocket carrying the satellite into orbit from the US. It would take a few more days for the satellite to reach its designated place.

Bangladesh continues to make progress on human development and reducing extreme poverty. The present government has been making all-out efforts to build Digital Bangladesh by taking into accounts the challenges of the 21stcentury.Introduction to satellite as well as cable services is very important for ensuring easy access to the Internet and satellite launching is also essential for building Digital Bangladesh.The launching of satellite will bring revolutionary changes in the field of broadcast and telecommunications. Now Bangladesh will be able to achieve self-sufficiency in these sectors and give up dependence on foreign satellites. The launching of Bangabandhu-1 has taken the nation to a new height. Bangladesh entered the new era through the launching of Bangabandhu Satellite-1. It’s really a matter of joy and pride for Bangladesh. With the launching, a glorious chapter in Bangladesh history has started. This is a very jubilant and proud day for the nation. Personally, I feel myself very fortunate as I have seen this event in my lifetime.

Writer: Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration, Jagannath University