By Mekonnen Teshome
African Space Science institutions indicate that the appetite of countries in the continent in launching satellites and exploiting the advantages of space technology is steadily growing. So far fourteen African countries have launched 52 satellites and Ethiopia is expected to to send one soon for the third time in its history.
Rwanda is making preparation to join the list of African countries that have successfully orbited satellites, including Algeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Ghana and Nigeria. In October 2021, Rwanda Space Agency filed a request to acquire these satellites, but the Minister noted that the number had increased to seven satellites. According to her, the full satellite launch should be by the end of 2023.
Rwanda is in talks with a number of countries to assist in the development of its space capabilities, in the hopes of securing accords that will support the country’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) objectives.
The country’s space ambitions have attracted interest from countries such as Japan, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates, the Minister of ICT and Innovations told The New Times.
The proposed mid to long-term partnerships with these countries, she said, range from the use of geospatial data to the design and manufacturing of satellites. For example, Rwanda and Israel signed an agreement in 2020, effectively laying the grounds for pursuing this cooperation. In 2019, Rwanda and Japan teamed up to build the first cube satellite (RwaSat-1), which was launched from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Centre and deployed to the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) from the International Space Station.
Under the partnership with Japan, Ingabire disclosed that 20 Rwandans are currently undergoing training in designing and producing minisatellites.
Rwanda recently approved the law establishing its space agency as the Chamber of Deputies voted. The Chamber of Deputies is the lower house of Rwanda’s national legislature.
Ethiopia and Kenya are currently leading the East African region with two satellites each so far.
Ethiopia is preparing to launch its third satellite into space, named ETRSS-2, which will be an earth observation satellite with a higher image resolution than its previous two satellites, ETRSS-1 and ET-Smart-RSS. The design and technical work of the satellite will be conducted by both Ethiopian and foreign professionals.
The Ethiopian Space Science & Technology Institute is also overseeing two other major projects: the launch of a communication satellite and the establishment of a satellite manufacturing and assembly plant. Towards achieving the latter, the Ethiopian government signed an agreement with the French company ArianeGroup to build a satellite manufacturing, assembly, integration, and testing (MAIT) facility in Addis Ababa.
The previously launched earth observation satellites have been monitoring the environment and weather patterns for better agricultural planning, drought early warning, mining activities, and forestry management. The third satellite is intended to have a resolution between 1-2 meters, which is higher than its predecessors. The Ethiopian Space Science & Technology Institute hopes to be able to conduct satellite operations independently after the completion of the third satellite.