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SpaceX, Loral win Bulgarian broadcast satellite deal

Posted: September 8, 2014
Updated on Sept. 9 to clarify Texas launch site details

Bulgaria's first communications satellite will be built and launched in the United States with financing from the U.S. Export-Import Bank, officials said Monday.

Artist's concept of BulgariaSat 1. Credit: Space Systems/Loral
Space Systems/Loral will manufacture the television broadcasting spacecraft in Palo Alto, Calif., and a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the satellite in 2016.

The satellite will broadcast direct-to-home television signals in the Balkans and other European regions for Bulgaria Sat, an affiliate of Bulgarian television and mobile operator Bulsatcom, Space Systems/Loral said in a press release Monday.

"SSL has a long history of working with both large established satellite operators and newer ventures to provide highly reliable satellites for today's advanced services," said John Celli, president of Space Systems/Loral. "It has been a pleasure to help Bulgaria Sat reach this milestone of ordering its first satellite, which will help expand connectivity in the region, bringing the latest in up-to-date information and entertainment."

Named Bulgaria Sat 1, the spacecraft will be equipped with 32 Ku-band transponders for fixed satellite services and high-definition television broadcasts.

The satellite will be based on Loral's 1300 series spacecraft platform and is designed for a 15-year lifetime.

Space Systems/Loral said it helped arrange financing for the satellite, including export credit financing from the U.S. Export-Import Bank, a government agency charged with financing the sale of U.S. products to foreign customers.

File photo of a Falcon 9 launch from Cape Canaveral. Credit: SpaceX
"We selected SSL to manufacture our first satellite early on, based on its history of success and reliability," said Maxim Zayakov, chief executive officer of Bulgaria Sat. "SSL has been an excellent partner in helping us bring this project to fruition."

The contract calls for Space Systems/Loral to deliver the satellite in orbit to Bulgaria Sat in 2016. Loral selected SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket for BulgariaSat 1's launch services.

The announcement did not specify a launch site for BulgariaSat 1.

SpaceX plans to move many its launches of commercial communications satellites from Cape Canaveral to a new launch facility in South Texas, but the first flight from the Texas site is not expected until 2016, at the earliest.

In a filing with the Federal Aviation Administration, SpaceX can conduct up to 12 launches per year from the South Texas launch base. Other missions, including launches for NASA and the U.S. military, will originate from Cape Canaveral or Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.