The first geostationary communications satellite of Bulgaria, BulgariaSat-1 was launched into the space aboard SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in June 2017. Placed at 1.9° East orbital position, the satellite  provides direct-to-home (DTH) television and data communication services in the Balkan region, Middle East, North America and Europe.

The satellite reached the geostationary orbit in July 2017 and started broadcasting in August 2017. BulgariaSat-1 can also be used for the assessment of natural disasters such as earthquakes, storms and floods when land-based networks are out of service.

The satellite is owned and operated by Bulgaria Sat, as well as supported by a $150m development loan by the US Export-Import Bank (EXIM).

BulgariaSat-1 satellite design and development

Space Systems/Loral (SSL) was awarded a contract to provide design, assembly, integration and testing services for the BulgariaSat-1 in September 2014. SSL completed the electrical and mechanical components assembly for the satellite at its Palo Alto manufacturing facility in California, US, in March 2016.

The satellite is owned and operated by Bulgaria Sat, and is supported by a $150m development loan by the US Export-Import Bank (EXIM).”

The satellite testing in thermal vacuum chamber was completed in April 2016. The environmental testing including vibration and acoustic testing was completed by August 2016. The satellite was shipped to Compact Antenna Test Range (CATR) centre for the final tests in September 2016. The tests enabled the satellite to withstand extreme conditions during the launch and in space.

Based on the LS1300 satellite platform manufactured by SSL, BulgariaSat-1 is designed for a lifespan of 15 years and can provide services for up to 18 years. It has a launch mass of 3,669kg and orbit the Earth at an altitude of 36,000km. The spacecraft includes two solar arrays, which will provide 10kW of power.

BulgariaSat-1 satellite communication capabilities

The BulgariaSat-1 satellite is equipped with two Ku-band fixed satellite service (FSS) transponders and 30 Ku-band broadcast satellite service (BSS) transponders. It provides fixed satellite and advanced television services, including high-definition channels.

The satellite  carries a spot beam with coverage across areas such as the Balkan region, Turkey, West and East Europe, as well as Middle East, North Africa and Caucus. It  provides real-time, high-speed, broadband satellite communications for businesses and corporate communications.

BulgariaSat-1 satellite launch vehicle details

The BulgariaSat-1 was launched atop Falcon 9 rocket, with the launch operations managed by SpaceX. The two-stage rocket  launched the satellite into the super-synchronous transfer orbit (SSTO).

The first stage of the rocket was equipped with nine Merlin engines and aluminium-lithium alloy tanks carrying liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) propellant, while the second stage was powered by a single Merlin vacuum engine.

The launch was performed from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Nasa’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, US.

Marketing commentary on Bulgaria Sat

Headquartered in Sofia, Bulgaria Sat is an affiliate of Bulsatcom. The company provides satellite communications solutions to broadcast, telecom, corporate and government customers. Bulsatcom offers pay-TV services, including more than 100 digital TV channels across Bulgaria.