The John Batchelor Show: Azerbaijan to commercial space and the stars

Baku, August 15, AZERTAC

John Batchelor, the host of the popular American radio program “The John Batchelor Show”, in a series of programs on Azerbaijan, has broadcast an interview dubbed “Azerbaijan to commercial space and the stars” with CEO and Chairman of Board of AzerCosmos Rashad Nabiyev.

In the beginning of the interview, which took place in the capital Baku, John Batchelor mentioned that Azerbaijan is already a member of the world space family. He hailed the country`s space program “with two satellites in the orbit and a third soon enough” as a commercial success.

Highlighting the history of AzerCosmos, Rashad Nabiyev noted that it was established by the decree of the President back in year 2010, but actually started its operations by the middle of 2011.

“So far we have two satellites in the orbit. The first satellite is Azerspace-1. We are providing telecommunication services across Africa, Middle East, Central Asia, Europe and, of course, the immediate region where we are located. At the same time in year 2014 we launched Azersky in cooperation with Airbus of France. We are providing the services across the world, including many US companies, including the Google and others. And now we are launching our third satellite, second telecommunication satellite, in coming September. And let me mention that our both telecommunication satellites were manufactured by the US-based companies,” the AzerCosmos CEO said.

In response to John Batchelor`s remark about the profound transformation of the launch business and prices getting down”, CEO Rashad Nabiyev said: “We think that classical changes in the industry, which is unique not only to the space industry, we see the changes coming from the small companies, from the startups. Just like SpaceX. This kind of companies are putting a tremendous pressure on the classical players and anchor players in the market. They are putting the prices down by their innovations. And as we know classically all the innovation usually comes from the new players, and the small players. And if you compare SpaceX with any other existing player in the market you will definitely see that with the limited number of people, as far as I know only a couple of thousands of people are working at SpaceX, how successful they were for the last like seven years, which put tremendous pressure on the players in the market, space agencies and others, Roscosmos and Nasa to draw down the prices, the launch prices. And the same can be applied to satellite manufacturers as well, which makes our capital expenditures to be lowered, which ultimately makes us competitive across the different markets. The newcomers like AzerCosmos we can compete with the companies like SES, Intelsat, Utelsat and make sure that ultimate users of our services - companies in Central Africa or Western, or Eastern Africa - get benefit from this competition.”

Replying to John Batchelor’s question regarding the profitability of launching satellites into the orbit, as well as selling or leasing time on them, Nabiyev said: “If we look at telecommunications part of our businesses, our customers, just like I mentioned, they are mostly in Africa. They are internet service providers, mobile operators, government agencies using our satellites for many backup solutions. We also have many data mining companies from China using our services in Africa somewhere. In the Middle East these are mostly broadcasters, in our region these are also broadcasters and the government offices.”

Speaking about the US satellite industry, John Batchelor said: “Space has changed everything for us in America and you see now there is lots of competition from small satellite launchers, small boosters and Nano satellites. And I am going to guess that you are going to move in that direction because Nano satellites are the brand new frontiers for companies to purchase time.”

Rashad Nabiyev noted that quite recently AzerCosmos established a department within the company, which is now looking at different initiatives across the world on how it can get part of these movements. “I am constantly travelling to Silicon Valley and seeing the new startups, my colleagues are travelling and we are talking to startups and see what’s going to be next. And the next definitely is going to be absolutely different from what we see today,” he added.

Responding to the host’s question about the future plans and projects of AzerCosmos, Nabiyev said: “Let me tell you that the first year of our operations coincided with the first graduates graduating from the State Program of sending our students abroad. It was the year 2011. The initiative was in 2007. I have to note that it was a visionary approach of Mr President that there will be a day when the country will need western-educated engineers. If you look at any other companies in the Middle East, which put the same amount of money on the table and you sit with them across the table you will see all the expats managing such companies. But we don’t have any expats so far. We had only three expats at the beginning of our operations, but so far the satellites have been operated by Azerbaijani young people of average age about 30 years. Our company is encouraging its staff to teach at different universities and some of them have already taken the PhD theses and that is going to be a continued process in the coming years. And I am pretty much sure that the people that we have in AzerCosmos now they will work across different other industries in the country in the years to come.”

John Batchelor visited Azerbaijan from July 29 to August 4.

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