Airbus and others bid to build Iraq’s first communications satellite

In September last year, Iraq invited developers to design, built, launch and operate the satellite

Iraq said French and Egyptian expertise could be used to launch the satellite. AP
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Airbus has submitted an offer to build and launch Iraq’s first communications satellite, among other companies, the spokesman for the country’s Communications Ministry said on Tuesday.

Emerging from decades of war, Iraq invited developers in September of last year to design, built, launch and operate the satellite that is intended to help modernise its telecoms services.

It is offering a partnership deal with the foreign companies.

In a statement, spokesman Raad Al Mashhadani said Airbus visited Iraq a few days ago and submitted its offer.

Local, Arab and international companies, including from Egypt, have also submitted bids, Mr Al Mashhad said.

The ministry is still receiving more bids, he said, while the cost of the project and other details have not been finalised yet.

He suggested that Iraq could make use of the expertise of both French and Egyptian companies in this field, but didn’t elaborate.

The 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, the 1991 Gulf War waged to expel Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait, the following UN economic sanctions, and the security and political instability after 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam, have kept Iraq lagging behind other countries.

In 1989, Saddam’s regime claimed it had tested two rockets capable of carrying a satellite into space 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 1991 war, and the satellites never got beyond the development stage.

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.

When he announced the plans to launch the communications satellite last year, Iraq's Minister of Communications Arkan Al Shaibani said “the development represents the prestige and sovereignty of the state”.

Updated: January 11, 2022, 4:25 PM