Ethiopia has announced that it will launch its first satellite into space in September 2019.
The satellite, which costs $8 million, is set to gather data inputs related to water, agriculture, climate change, and environmental protection.
“Our main goals by launching this first satellite are two. The first one is [to] build technology application capacity and skills of our engineers through collaborations with different countries’ space scientists and institutions. So that they will be in a position to design, build and launch the second satellite independently. The second one is the direct support the first satellite gives to the social and economic development in terms of saving the money the country is currently spending for buying data, such as climate data,” said Dr Solomon Belay Tessema, Senior Scientist and Director General of Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute at the Addis Ababa University.
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This would not be possible without China.
According to reports, China has offered $6 million in financial support and will provide training and the cost of launching the satellite, which will be done from China.
“The satellite will be launched from China while the control and command station will be in Ethiopia. Most preliminary and critical design is done by our scientists,” Tessema added.
Currently, 20 Ethiopian engineers are involved in the launching and design of the country’s first satellite.
“We use home-based strategy, which involves local engineers and students at MA and Ph.D.-level to be part of the science and applications of the technology and knowledge transfer,” said Tessema.
Ethiopia now joins a number of other African countries that have launched satellites into space. The most recent was Kenya, which launched its first locally produced satellite into orbit in May 2018. South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Angola, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt also have satellites orbiting the earth, with three of them launched in 2017 alone.
Zimbabwe became the most recent country to set up a space agency, which “will enhance agriculture, mineral exploration, wildlife conservation, disease surveillance and infrastructure management and mapping, according to President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“This programme is expected to enhance Zimbabwe’s capabilities in global policy discourses on generation, access, use and regulation of the application of space technologies and innovations for sustainable development. To this end, I challenge all stakeholders in this field to take advantage of our engagement and re-engagement policy and establish mutually beneficial partnerships from across the globe,” he said.
These projects seem to be in line with the African Union (AU) African Space Policy, which was launched in 2017. It acknowledges the benefits of space exploration and recommends the use of satellites for development and economic progress.