Iraq unveils plan to build and launch satellite

New satellite will help modernise Iraq's telecommunications services

A communication satellite in Earth orbit. Getty Images
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Iraq unveiled plans this week to build and launch a communications satellite soon and is seeking foreign partners, a government official told The National.

The satellite is intended to help modernise the country's telecommunications services.

"Iraq is seeking foreign and Arab countries to build and launch a satellite for the country. What has been announced this week is the tender for the project," communications ministry spokesman Raad Mashhadani told The National.

Details on how long it will take to be built, where they plan to launch it from and the cost will be finalised after receiving bids, Mr Al Mashhadani said.

The tender invites the developers to design, build, launch and operate the satellite, offering a partnership deal, according to the tender seen by The National.

Interested companies have to pay 75 million Iraqi dinar ($51,000) to obtain the documents and have until November 18 to submit their bids.

“This achievement came with the support and guidance of Prime Minister Mustafa Al Khadhimi who is pushing for Iraq to keep up with developments taking place in the new telecoms sector,” Mr Al Mashhadani said.

Iraq's TigriSat reached space in June 2014. The satellite is used to detect dust storms using camera technology. Photo: Nanosats

Iraq's Minister of Communications Arkan Al Shaibani, who announced the plan at the Second Iraqi Cyber ​​Security Conference in Baghdad, said “the development represents the prestige and sovereignty of the state”.

In 2014 a team of Iraqi students at the University of Rome built a micro satellite called TigriSat, which blasted into orbit in June of that year on board a converted Soviet-era intercontinental ballistic missile.

The small satellite – Iraq's first – uses a camera to detect dust storms over the country and is still in orbit.

Iraq claimed it had tested two rockets capable of carrying a satellite into space in 1989 under Saddam Hussein's government, which would have made it the first Arab state with such a capability.

The launch was the culmination of a secretive space programme called Al Ta-ir, which aimed to put two experimental satellites into orbit.

The programme came to an abrupt halt with the outbreak of the Gulf war in 1991 however, and the satellites, one of which was described as looking like a "1970's disco-themed coffee table", never got beyond the development stage.

Updated: September 23, 2021, 1:42 PM