ASHGABAT, November 12 (RIA Novosti) – The US ambassador to Turkmenistan said Tuesday that the Central Asian nation will launch its first ever telecommunication satellite on a private, US-made SpaceX craft in late 2014.
Robert Patterson said at the Turkmen-American business forum in the capital of the energy-rich former Soviet state, Ashgabat, that the United States was eager to help the natural gas-rich nation in all spheres of development.
The satellite is expected to be launched aboard a Falcon 9 rocket.
Turkmenistan has already reached an agreement with French company Thales Alenia Space to design and build the satellite.
Technicians from Turkmenistan’s National Space Agency, which was created in 2011, are currently undergoing training at Thales Alenia Space plants.
The satellite is due to provide services to the national broadcaster, Internet and telephone communication and video conferencing.
Although Turkmenistan is nominally growing rich on its sales of gas, many remain mired in poverty and the quality of Internet and mobile phone services is considerably short of international standards.
Earlier reports had suggested the launch of the telecommunications satellite would be carried out by China’s Great Wall company, but Patterson’s remarks appear to confirm that arrangement is no longer in place.
Turkmenistan is currently served by the Yamal satellite, owned by Russia’s Gazprom Space Systems.
While Turkmenistan has never sent its own satellite to space, it did in 2005 dispatch a copy of then-President Saparmurat Niyazov’s rambling Rukhnama spiritual guide into orbit on a Russian rocket.
The gesture was one of many aimed to exalt the outlandish cult of personality created to honor Niyazov, who died suddenly of a heart attack in 2006.