Bangladesh entered the not-so-elite Space Club with the launch of its first geostationary communications satellite, the Bangabandhu-1, into orbit by US space transport company SpaceX in the small hours of Saturday, May 12.

The satellite was launched using the latest version of SpaceX's upgraded Falcon 9 rocket, the Block 5, from the historic Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida at 4.14pm (local time) on Friday (2:14am, Saturday, May 12 in Bangladesh).

Prime Minister's ICT Affairs Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy, State Minister for Information Tarana Halim, State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) Chairman Dr Shahjahan Mahmood, Chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on ICT Affairs Imran Ahmed and high officials concerned were present at the launching ceremony.

State-owned Bangladesh Television broadcast the launching of Bangabandhu-1 live, as did other local channels, although some were caught off guard by the almost immediate launch as the window for the day opened at 4:14pm.

The satellite has finally made its journey towards the orbit after its launching schedule was deferred 9 times previously.

Around 33 minutes into the flight, Bangabandhu-1 was separated from its carrier and was now in geostationary orbit. The satellite will need three weeks to reach its exact position in space, said officials concerned.

Bangabandhu-1 is expected to bring enormous development in the country especially in television, telephone and internet services which Bangladesh usually purchases from overseas.

The major benefits are expected in the fields of direct to home (DTH) service, very small aperture terminal (VSAT) communications, backhaul and trunking, network restoration, and disaster preparedness and relief.

At present Bangladesh is spending annually more than $14 million on satellite rent to ensure connectivity. So, this satellite will make the country not only self-contained but also bring foreign currency by selling broadcasting service to other countries.

Neighboring India and Pakistan have their own satellites while Sri Lanka is also in the queue. Once Bangabandhu-1 will be in service, Bangladesh will begin renting services to Nepal, Myanmar, Bhutan and many others with an estimated value of over $50 million per year, BTRC insides said.

The primary service area of the satellite will be Bangladesh and neighbouring countries, while its secondary service areas will include South East Asia, Europe, Middle East and North Africa, as well as East Africa.

Bangabandhu-1 with a capacity of 1,600 megahertz will have 26 Ku-Band and 14 C-Band transponders and a predicted life span of 15 years. Half of the capacity will be reserved for the country while the rest will be rented out, BTRC has previously said.

State Minister for ICT Junaid Ahmed Palak confirmed that following the successful deployment of the satellite to geostationary orbit, the local groundstations in Gazipur and Betbunia successfully received an initial test signal from it two hours into the launch.

The Bangabandhu Satellite-1 mission served as the first flight of Falcon 9 Block 5, the final substantial upgrade to SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Falcon 9 Block 5 is designed to be capable of 10 or more flights with very limited refurbishment as SpaceX continues to strive for rapid reusability and extremely high reliability. Following stage separation, SpaceX successfully landed Falcon 9's first stage on the "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.

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