This provision has been included into the Memorandum of Understanding, signed by Russian companies ‘Sputniks’ and ‘Glavcosmos Launch Services’ and the Tunisian company Telnet Holding. The partners agreed to cooperate in designing small-size spacecraft and components, launching small satellites into orbit and deploying groups of satellites. “This is a very beautiful and important event for Skolkovo,” Arkady Dvorkovich, Chairman of the Foundation, said.

Small spacecraft (SSC) are what ‘Sputniks’, a resident of the Skolkovo Foundation’s cluster of advanced production, nuclear and space technologies, specializes in. This is a private manufacturer of high-tech satellite components and platforms for SSC, land equipment for fine-tuning and testing these craft, land satellite stations and equipment for aerospace education. 

The trilateral agreement was signed in the presence of Arkady Dvorkovich (far right) and Tunisian ambassador to the Russian Federation Mohammed ali Chihi (second left). Photo:


By 2023, the signatories plan to have created and launched into orbit some 30 small satellites for the ‘Internet of things’. The parties intend to organize development and production of spacecraft components, set up labs in Tunisia and install test stands with the help of ‘Sputniks’ Company’s experience. The satellites will be built with use of Cubesat technologies, which allow the creation of modern and more reliable telecommunication devices within a very short timeframe.

Before deploying the satellite group, the parties to the agreement intend to launch a test satellite under the name of Challenge ONE, into orbit. This will be the first spacecraft for Tunisia. The name has been chosen for a purpose. “Creating our first spacecraft is a challenge for our country,” said Mohamed Frikha, Director of Telnet Holding. This is a group of companies with its head office in Tunisia, involved in designing software, mechanical products and electronics. The group offers consulting services in the field of working with contractors, R&D services, as well as expert advice in the field of telecommunications, multimedia, energy, payment solutions and the aerospace industry.

Vladislav Ivanenko: For ‘Sputniks’, this agreement was the first export contract for a spacecraft. Photo:       

Partner companies also plan to organize a large-scale space education program in Tunisia. This program will also involve experts from ‘Sputniks’ and ‘Glavcosmos Launch Services’.

“The agreement between ‘Sputniks’, ‘Telnet Holdings’ and ‘Glavcosmos Launch Services’ serves as recognition of the work done by our resident company and its partners. The topic of space research is one of the topics most in demand globally. And our company is one of the leaders in this promising niche. Together with our colleagues from Tunisia, we will not only launch small satellites, but also develop educational programs for the space industry” said Arkady Dvorkovich, Chairman of the Foundation, speaking at the signing ceremony.

For ‘Sputniks’, this agreement heralded the first export contract for a spacecraft, General Director of the company Vladislav Ivanenko said. “We have developed an effective interaction scheme between technological companies, foundations that support them and ‘Roscosmos’ State Corporation,” Mr. Ivanenko said. “We would like to thank the Skolkovo Foundation for believing in us and financing the creation of the first satellite, and for the Support of Innovations that has been supporting our technological development over the past couple of years. Our joint efforts allowed us to win this competition and become partners with Telnet Holding.”

Alexander Serkin, General Director of ‘Glavcosmos Launch Services’, the affiliate company of JSC ‘Glavcosmos’ (part of Roscosmos Corporation) said that the cooperation project with Tunisia will be implemented in two steps. The first step in our joint project is the launch of the Challenge One satellite, which is expected to be launched in the second quarter of 2020 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The satellite will be launched with the help of the ‘Soyuz-2’ launch vehicle. Mr. Frikha said that after the satellite is launched, Tunisian specialists will spend the following six months in testing its systems.

A spokesman of ‘Glavcosmos Launch Services’ said that Challenge One Satellite is expected to be launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in late April 2020 as an accompanying payload together the South Korean CAS500-1 device.

The second stage of the project presupposes launching some 30 smaller satellites into orbit, Alexander Serkin added. Mohamed Frikha said that Challenge One project will be financed by one of the Foundations of Telnet Company, and we hope to attract partner companies from Europe and the Middle East in the financing the development of 30 smaller spacecraft.

Alexey Belyakov: ‘Sputniks’ has entered a “very interesting and dynamic market of the industrial Internet.” Photo:


“We are interested in developing educational programs and equipping our laboratories with suitable equipment. In a few months, we will begin the construction of the space valley in Sfax (Tunisia),” the director of Telnet Holding said.

Signing the contract, Alexey Belyakov, Vice President of Skolkovo Foundation and head of the Cluster of Advanced Production, Nuclear and Space Technologies, noted that ‘Sputniks’ has entered a “very interesting and dynamic market of the industrial Internet.” Over the past decade, the space industry has undergone considerable transformation,” Mr. Belyakov said. Now the industry has many new players, in particular, venture funds and private companies. Skolkovo is the development institution that supports this direction of work. Some 200 companies are residents of the space cluster as of today. Their total revenue in 2018 amounted to around USD $100 million,” Mr. Belyakov said.