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."