Gabdullatif MYRZAKULOV President of National Company Kazakhstan
KAZAKHSTAN'S FIRST EARTH REMOTE SENSING SATELLITE TO BLAST OFF FROM FRENCH SPACEPORT KOUROU IN 2014
Kazakhstan's space agency Kazkosmos has started building
a space center in Astana to design and assemble spacecrafts. In a two-year term
the joint venture in cooperation with the French EADS Astrium is scheduled to
start manufacturing KazakhstanТs first Earth Remote Sensing Satellite (ERS).
The president of National Company Kazakhstan Garysh Sapar (part of Kazkosmos)
Gabdullatif Myrzakulov told Interfax-Kazakhstan agency about the ambitious
plans of Kazakhstan both on Earth and in space.
- Why the French EADS is chosen as a strategic partner for the Spacecraft Assembly and Test Complex and Earth Remote Sensing Satellite (ERS) projects? Are you satisfied with how the foreign investor is meeting your expectations and providing project financing according to the schedule?
- Kazakhstan has learnt its lesson during the first stage of the
national space development program in 2005-2007. If earlier the focus was made
on turnkey design and shipment of spacecrafts (namely the telecommunications
satellite KazSat-1 and ground control post) now we shift the focus on the transfer
of the advanced technologies in spacecraft engineering to Kazakhstan.
To achieve this goal, Kazakhstan has opted for the classic approach:
if we want to develop space industry, we need to establish design engineering
centers and build a manufacturing and technological base.
Unfortunately, over the past five years, out of five Russia-made
telecommunications satellites three revealed serious problems (KazSat-1 among
them). The failures haunting the Russian space industry, forced Kazakhstan to
seek cooperation with European partners having a reliable and well-tested technologies.
The KazSat-1 satellite was launched into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome
on June 18, 2006. KazSat was manufactured by the Khrunichev Space Research and
Production Center. After its launch Kazakhstan started implementing its own
space programs. The country spent $65 million to create its own satellite. On
June 8, 2008, the KazSat satellite stopped operating due to a failure in the
on-board digital computing system and was not responding to the signals from
the control center on the Earth. By late October specialists from Kazakhstan
and Russia managed to partially restore the satellite's operating capacity.
However, on December 2 the head of the national space agency said that the first
Kazakh satellite, KazSat, was ultimately lost.
The launch of Kazakhstan's second national satellite KazSat-2 from the Baikonur
Cosmodrome is scheduled for December 2010.
Learning from the previous experience KazKosmos signed an agreement
on strategic partnership with Europe's largest and worldТs second largest manufacturer
of space systems EADS Astrium in October last year. The agreement provides for
the transfer of modern technologies and the creation of the Astana Assembly
and Testing Center for manufacturing of spacecrafts. On April 30 the joint venture,
in which Astrium holds 27.5%, finalized its registration.
Currently, the joint venture is establishing an executive body
called the supervisory board. The authorized capital is going to be formed by
October. Meanwhile, the design estimates for the National Space Center and the
conceptual design for the Assembly and Testing Center are nearing completion.
The contract for the supply of equipment and construction of the assembly complex
is also at the final stage. We expect to sign the agreement in the next two
or three weeks.
As for the financing, I may say that the maximum aggregate cost
of the assembly complex including the equipment, construction costs and maintenance
costs are estimated at Euro 131 million. EADS Astrium will cover nearly third
of the total project costs. We also have reached an agreement that the French
partner will make its contribution to the authorized capital of the JV.
The agreement for the creation of the Earth Remote Sensing System and for the construction of a spaceship assembly and testing site was signed on October 6, 2009 when French President Nicolas Sarkozy was visiting Kazakhstan.
- Designing and engineering space satellites "from scratch" is a very scientific and capital-intensive project. If Kazakhstan is not facing a funds deficit, the lack of high-qualified specialists in the space industry is obvious. What is your solution to the lack of the engineering personnel?
- I would like to point out that the space center will also house
a special design and technology unit, a national laboratory for space technology
and facilities for the production of space craft components.
The space center will be equipped with the most advanced testing
gear. In particular, a thermal vacuum chamber (TVC) that will allow testing
space crafts weighing up to 6 tons, an acoustic test chamber, vibrations stands
and a compact ground for satellite testing.
The design and technology unit will become the space centerТs
brain. It will conduct its own space design programs as well as adapt French
technologies transferred under the working Kazakh-French agreement.
To ensure success of the project, AstriumТs enterprises will
prepare 100 high-profile Kazakh specialists including designers, engineers and
testers within 3 years. The first 20 trainees are leaving for France in September
this year. The design and technology unit will also have its own pilot production
geared up with decent equipment to test the domestic technologies.
It means that we are creating a full production cycle from technology
designing to its mass production.
- What are the projectТs marketing targets? After all, as far as we can judge, the Assembly and Testing Unit is designed to satisfy not only KazakhstanТs needs. Do you plan to return investments?
- I would like to point out one fundamental detail: the assembly
complex has received an adequate amount of orders and long-term funding at its
early stage. The JVТs business plan lists all KazakhstanТs satellites for the
next few years, including KazSat-3 and KazSat-4 telecommunications satellites
and a substitute communications satellite, a medium-resolution earth remote
sensing satellite and its space craft substitute in the future as well as Kazakh
scientific satellites for space exploration.
In addition, we plan to start the construction of a regional
connection satellite for the CIS countries in 2018, which will allow for the
efficient use of Central AsiaТs orbital and frequency resources. We hope to
develop this idea with our nearest neighbors in the next 6-7 years.
Many of our foreign partners have already expressed their keen
interest in the Assembly and Testing complex at its construction stage. Some
of them hope to use the complexТs facilities to test their space crafts in the
future, some of them can become our potential customers. We can say with certainty
that the Arab countries are seriously considering this option.
LetТs not forget that our strategic partner has guaranteed 5
years of annual orders totaling 12 million euros. We are talking about the export
production of precision mechanics, cable products and spacecraft wiring.
France will also help Kazakhstan to sell the earth surface shots
(taken by the earth remote sensing satellite) through its well-established distribution
network. And this is big money: according to our marketing research, oil companies
operating in Kazakhstan annually spend up to $80 million on buying such shots
from abroad. We do not expect to occupy the whole market, however even 20% would
be enough to return the ERS funds in the next 10 years.
Thus, the assembly and testing complex would be loaded with orders
for both domestic (66% in monetary terms) and international (34%) markets.
We are confident that the complex will recoup its costs even
under the most pessimistic scenario. The projectТs feasibility study has set
the payback period at 10 years.
I would also like to note that the complexТs production capacity
will total 3 space crafts in 2 years in the first 3-year stage. We expect to
reach full capacity by the year 2015.
- What kind of satellites is the assembly and testing complex going to produce? How many components do you expect to produce or is it going to be a Уjust-put-it-togetherФ line?
- The assembly and testing complexТs initial characteristics will
allow Kazakhstan producing all types of space crafts: optical, radar (ERS) and
It wonТt be a Уjust-put-it-togetherФ line. The main components
will be produced in France (though we are also considering reliable suppliers
from other countries) but here in Kazakhstan we will be assembling and testing
Besides, we are planning to gradually increase the Kazakh content
in satellites production. Thus, it will start at 10% in 2014 and grow up to
40% by 2020 at the expense of our own products (mainly software). For instance,
our Special Design and Technology Unit is currently developing star sensors,
GPS sensor, and phased array antennas. So, research work is already underway.
We can boast of some achievements too. For example, the engineers
of Kazkosmos have devised ten methods to test the solutions, which were applied
when building spacecraft, for compliance with our terms of reference. Such research
work allows us to establish cooperation with the foreign investors. Now they
know that we are well aware of what we order, what we expect to get in the end
and, moreover, we are capable of verifying the quality of the product we ordered.
- The production cycle of Spacecraft Assembly and Test Complex, probably, will not be complete if Kazakhstan itself canТt launch the satellitesЕ Though Kazakhstan owns a spaceport, which is the largest in the world, it does not actually have УaccessФ to the space.
- Kazakhstan will have two options for launching its own satellites.
As you may know, Kazakhstan acquired a stake in Russian-Ukrainian joint venture
Cosmotrans, which specializes in commercial launches of converted missile RS-20B
"Dnepr" that will carry satellites. Kazkosmos intends to increase its holding
in the joint venture to 33.3% in the next year and a half.
We hope that in the next 4-5 years Dnepr will bring Kazakhstan
spacecrafts into orbit. Our Special Design and Technology Unit will also be
able to test its solutions when assembling the satellites at the Spacecraft
Assembly and Test Complex.
Besides, our French partners have offered Kazakhstan their Kourou
cosmodrome in FranceТs Guiana to launch Kazakh spacecrafts. European launcher
Ariane will put our Earth Remote Sensing satellite (ERS) satellite into orbit.
Astrium as manufacturer of this spacecraft sets very tough requirements for
safety and we have agreed with the proposal of the French side. The satellite
is going to be launched in 2014.
Of course, we considered the possibility of having our satellite
launched from Baikonur in order to cut the project costs. However, as France
and Russia does not have an agreement on security of military satellites, such
a launch would be rather problematic.
- By the way, concerning the second joint project with EADS Astrium, which is Earth Remote Sensing system (ERS). What is the status of this project? Has it been somehow affected by the financial crisis?
- The project is being implemented as per the schedule. But it
may face shortage of finances next year.
Nevertheless, in late April we made prepayment with respect to
the first of the two ERS satellites, a high resolution system. On June 17 we
accepted from the French partners the first stage of the project.
Our objective for the near future is to make an advance payment
with respect to the second ERS satellite, a medium resolution system. It will
be manufactured by SSTL, a UK-based business unit of Astrium. I hope that the
work on this satellite will begin in mid-July. However, the progress of the
project will depend, of course, on availability of finances.
- Recently the Kazakh parliament ratified an agreement between Kazakhstan and France which grants Astrium export licenses for supply of duel-purpose satellites to Kazakhstan. Does this mean that the Assembly and Test Complex will be used to satisfy the domestic military demands?
- Not exactly. In accordance with this agreement the French government
will grant permission to EADS Astrium to manufacture and deliver to Kazakhstan
an ERS satellite, which will be making images of the Earth surface with a spatial
resolution of 1 meter. ERS systems are classed as dual-purpose satellites.
I should also mention that Kazakhstan is the first CIS country
which France will deliver such equipment and transfer the production technology.
This demonstrates the high level of confidence between our countries and the
strategic partnership in the space industry.
- Thank you for the interview!
й 2009 Interfax-Kazakhstan news agency
© 2013 Interfax-Kazakhstan news agency
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