Space industry opens new horizon before Azerbaijan
The economy related to space is a huge and promising industry. Many say that it is not the economy of today, but tomorrow, because currently space is a big void for us and we cannot reap the benefits of space comprehensively. However, developing technology makes this industry available to us gradually. Actually, despite the cosmos not being well investigated and explored in comparison to other spheres, day by day its new sub-branches emerge. It is obvious that the more we explore the cosmos, the more new specialties and branches will emerge in the economy and science that will broaden the horizon before humankind.
European Space Agency described the importance of the industry with the following sentences: “Every euro spent in the space industry returns around six euros to the economy. This makes it a critical sector for economic development, competitiveness, and high-tech jobs”.
The space industry covers many sectors from the satellite industry to space tourism. Some countries have long started to reap its benefits. Take Russia, for example. The industry and related sectors employ about 250,000 people in Russia.
Besides, some experts claim that most of the chemical elements in the world will run out in 50 years. In this case, the importance of the Cosmos will ramp up. Thus, the outline of a new sector in the space-based economy emerged. Today, many countries foresee this challenge and take measures to eliminate possible shortcomings in the future.
Due to the potential of the industry, countries are competing with each other to become one of the space-industry-owning countries. However, despite the big potential of the industry, currently, satellite-related businesses are the main profitable sector in the industry and Azerbaijan is one of these countries. It is worth noting that Azerbaijan has been the first country to own the space industry in the region since 2010. However, the history of the space industry traces back to that date. During the Soviet Union, several companies in Azerbaijan manufactured types of equipment for space projects.
Azercosmos is the first satellite operator in the South Caucasus and it was established by Decree No. 885 of the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on May 3, 2010, with the aim of ensuring the development, launch, management, and operation of telecommunication satellites. On February 8, 2013, Azerbaijan launched the first artificial satellite named Azerspace-1 into space. According to official data, the total cost of "Azerspace-1" is $233m. Azercosmos OJSC plans to get $420m of net income from the operation of this satellite.
Azerbaijan launched the second artificial satellite Azersky Observation satellite into orbit on June 30, 2014. The lifespan of Azersky was 12 years, but it ended its mission on 20 April 2023. Azerbaijan's third satellite, Azerspace-2, was launched into space on September 28, 2018. The cost of Azerspace-2 is about $190m and its lifespan is about 20 years. According to the experts, the satellite will bring $400m to Azerbaijan's economy. In addition to the economic aspect, the operation of "Azerspace-2" in orbit will also ensure the country's information security and independence. It is already known that the service area of "Azerspace-2" will be expanded and will cover a number of European countries, as well as Central and Southwest Asia, the Middle East, and Tropical Africa. The satellite will offer high technical capabilities, favorable coverage area, and quality service to public and private entities in the region to meet the growing demands in the field of network services. The new satellite will expand the service spectrum and geography of activity of "Azerkosmos" and will also serve as an in-orbit reserve for the first telecommunication satellite - "Azerspace-1". This, in turn, will create an opportunity for "Azerkosmos" to participate in large-scale international tenders, which it has not been able to participate in until now due to the lack of a spare satellite.
In addition, Azerbaijan is going to launch Azersky 2 into orbit next year. Surely, Azerbaijan will not limit its space industry capacity to three or four satellites but will develop and increase it further, because it enables Azerbaijan which suffers from Dutch Diseases to diversify its exports. Today, Azerbaijan exports only services, but if the country can revive its previous space industry, more precisely equipment production, the volume of its exports will increase as well. Moreover, more job places for high-tech engineers will be created.
Besides, agriculture is considered one of the major sectors in Azerbaijan's economy, and agriculture is well integrated into the space industry. Currently, satellite photos play an important role in agriculture planning. Even some countries can conduct preliminary soil analyses with the help of satellite images.
In addition to the economic benefits, it has military benefits as well. It is not a secret that Azersky played an important role in the reconnaissance.
So, taking into account all the above, we can conclude that the space industry can be a good leverage in Azerbaijan’s economy. Although the space industry does not play a major role in Azerbaijan’s economy, it has a big potential. It is very hard to believe that the space industry can replace oil and gas, but it can be as profitable as tourism and other important sectors.
Qabil Ashirov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @g_Ashirov
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