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SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria's first geostationary communications satellite has been launched into space, operator Bulsatcom said in a statement on Saturday.

The BulgariaSat-1 satellite, which will provide television and communication services to Europe and North Africa, was launched by SpaceX from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 1910 GMT on Friday.

The satellite could be also used in force majeure situations - accidents due to natural disasters - such as earthquakes, storms and floods when land-based networks are not operational.

"When we started this space project more than 10 years ago, we clearly knew that what was need to complete it successfully was patience, commitment and a strong team," said Maxim Zayakov, CEO of Bulgaria Sat and Bulsatcom.

"We launched our BulgariaSat-1, we stepped up a as one of the leading space nations in Europe and opened the path for the development of the related Bulgarian high-tech sectors and talented specialists."

The satellite will be positioned into orbit at 36,000 km (22,000 miles) above the Earth and be operational up to 20 years. Over the next month, the ground control room will carry out the necessary tests and settings to make the satellite operationally ready to broadcast.

Bulsatcom has secured financing for the $235 million project from the United States' Export-Import Bank and a Deutsche Bank-led consortium of European banks.

(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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