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Via China, Ethiopia joins Africa's satellite league: Who else is in?


Ethiopia became the tenth African nation to send a satellite into space this year. A landmark achievement for the East African nation who join the space exploration wagon in an attempt to boost it’s remote sensing capacities.

The satellite was launched on Friday from China as Ethiopian and Chinese officials and scientists gathered at the Entoto Observatory and Research Center outside the capital, Addis Ababa, early Friday to watch a live broadcast.

“Ethiopia has joined the effort to seek knowledge and information from space,” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, said in a congratulatory message to Ethiopians. He said that Ethiopia will send up more satellites in collaboration with other countries, without giving details.

Samuel Tesfaye, a resident of the capital Addis Ababa said: “I have heard around 20 Ethiopians have participated in the launching of the satellite, 15 men and 5 women.

“In the near future, I believe Ethiopians will do better in the space program, that’s my hope,” he stressed.

Ethiopia’s satellite was shot into space from China, all the other African nations to have launched have had it done from overseas – no launch has be made from the continent as yet. Egypt first launched its satellite in 1998.

Data provided by Ethiopia’s satellite is expected to paint a fuller picture of the country’s agriculture, forestry and mining resources and improve responses to flooding and other disasters.

Africa’s Satellite league

  • Egypt – In 1998, Egypt became the first African nation to launch a satellite. There are two variants – NILESAT and EGYPTSAT satellites. The most recent launch was in February 2019.
  • Morocco – In November 2017, Morocco sent the Mohammed VI-A satellite into space.
  • South Africa – South Africa was the first in sub-Saharan Africa to launch a miniaturized satellite called SUNSAT, which was designed and manufactured in the country, in a NASA-sponsored launch in 1999. The most recent launch was in 2018.
  • Ghana – In 2017, GhanaSat-1 satellite, was shot into space from the International Space Station, whiles the team back in Ghana watched from the All Nations university auditorium.
  • Rwanda – In 2018, RWASAT1 nicknamed Icyerekezo, which loosely means ‘Vision’, was launched by the UK company OneWeb in partnership with the Rwandan government.
  • Kenya – In May 2018, Kenya launched its first satellite into orbit. The locally produced 4-inch CubeSat, was developed by a team at the University of Nairobi in partnership with the Japanese Space Agency.
  • Angola – satellite Angosat-1! Launched by Russia on December 26, contact had been lost with the device after it was put into orbit.
  • Ethiopia – With Chinese assistance ETRSS-1 launched from China as observatory team looks on from Addis Ababa.
  • Nigeria – Launched its first earth observation satellite, NigeriaSat-1, in September 2003. Followed by the launch of Africa’s first communications satellite, NigComSat-1, built and launched in China in 2007. Earth observation satellites NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X were then sent into orbit by the Ukrainian outfit from Russian military base in 2011.
  • Algeria – Most recent launch was in 2017 of the Alcomsat-1, which began operating in 2018. In September 2016, three Algerian satellites – Alsat-1B, Alsat-2B and Alsat-1N were launched.

Details of the ET-RSS1

“This is a day we became one of the 70 countries in the world that operate a satellite from space,” said Ahmedin Mohammed, an official with Ethiopia’s Innovation and Technology Ministry. “The next step is to launch a communication satellite and also set up a space materials assembly and manufacturing facility here in Ethiopia.”

Ethiopian space officials stated both Ethiopian and Chinese engineers took part in the construction of the 72 kilogram (159 pound) satellite that took three years.

The total cost of the satellite was $8 million, of which $6 million was covered by China, said Ethiopian officials. Ethiopia hopes to save up to $11 million a year by using their own satellite data. The satellite was sent into space from Shanxi Province in China.

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