8 African Countries Involved in a Space Project
Born in 1919 in the Northern Rhodesia, presently Zambia, Edward Festus Mukuka Nkoloso introduced the first space project in Zambia by founding the Zambia National Academy of Science, Space and Philosophy. The space project planned to launch a rocket with Matha Mwambwa, a 17-year old young girl and two cats to the moon. Nkoloso, who was hoping to beat the space projects of the United States and Soviet Union also made plans for trips to Mars.
Nkoloso’s dream of making did not die as Africa boasts of many space programs today. Below are 8 African countries that run a space project.
The Algerian Space Agency, ASAL was established on 16 January 2002 with the objective of utilizing space technology as a vector for economic, social and cultural development as well as to assure the security and wellbeing of its people.
ASAL launched Alsat-1, a Disaster Monitoring Constellation, DMC, on November 28, 2002 from the Plesetsk Base in Russia. It later on launched Alsat-1B to assure the continuity of the project started by Alsat-1 and to give higher resolution images. On July 12, 2010, it launched the Alsat-2A in Sriharikota, South Eastern India and Alsat-2B in December 2016.
ASAL has signed treaties recently with international partners like France, Argentina, Ukraine, China, Russia and the United Kingdom. Since it was established, Algeria has launched a total of five disaster monitoring micro-satellites. It was not until 2010 that it launched its first earth observation satellite.
Thanks to Russian assistance, Egypt now owns a military satellite. Egypt’s space ambition started in the 1950s but it was not until May 16, 1998 that the Egyptian Space Council was established and one year later, on May 26, 1999 they approved the Egyptian Space Program under the National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences, NARSSS which it created in 1991. It should be noted that remote sensing activities had started in 1971 under the Egyptian Academy of Science and Technology, ASRT, an American-Egyptian joint space project.
Egypt has been working alongside Sudan to launch many space projects as it tries to establish an African Space Agency.
Nigeria’s space ambition was as far back as 1976 when it declared to the Economic Commission for Africa and the Organization of African Unity during an inter-governmental meeting in Addis-Ababa. Nigeria’s National Space Research and Development Agency, NASRDA created on May 5, 1999 by the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology is aimed at developing and applying space technology for economic and social benefits.
It launched the NIGERIASAT-1 on 27, September 2003 in Plesetsk Kosmodrome, Russia; NIGERIASAT-2 and NIGERIASAT-X in Yasny, Russia on August 17, 2011; NIGCOMSAT-1R, a communication satellite with a lifespan of 15 years was launched on December 19, 2011 in Xichang Satellite Launch Centre, China. It uses the 4C, 14Ku, 8Ka and 2 L-band transponders to provide optimal and cost effective voice, video, data, application service and Internet. The NIGCOMSAT-1R replaced the NIGCOMSAT-1 that was launched in May 2007 and failed in November 2008 after it ran out of solar power.
Nigeria uses satellites to monitor activities in the oil-rich Niger Delta, locating Boko Haram terrorists and in election monitoring to provide crucial information that may have been overlooked by poll workers.
4. South Africa
In 1999, South Africa launched it’s first satellite SUNSAT and ten years later, SumbandilaSat was launched in 2009 from Kazakstan. On 9 December 2010, the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) was created and 2013 saw the launching of ZACUBE-1, South Africa’s first CubeSat by the Cape University of Technology.
The government funded SANSA has as mandate to make use of data acquired from both local and international satellites in order to prevent the occurrence of natural disasters and for scientific explorations. It provides post-disaster assessment and monitoring for South Africa and its neighbors. Kondor-E satellite, which provides an all-weather, day-and-night radar imagery for the South African military and built for South Africa in Russia was launched in early 2015.
Ghana has one of the youngest space project in the African continent. The Ghana Space Science and Technology Centre, GSSTC, was launched on May 2, 2012. The project has as mission to utilize space science and technology to promote teaching, learning, commercial application of space research for the economic transformation of Ghana and the sub-region.
GSSTC’s first project, the Ghana Radio Astronomy Project which turned the abandoned Vodafone earth satellite station into a radio astronomy telescope. Ghana has plans to launch its first satellite this 2018.
Morocco’s space ambition started as far back as in December 1989 which saw the establishment of the Center for Remote Sensing. In November 2017, it launched its first high-resolution observation satellite, Mohammed VI-A satellite from Kourou, French Guiana. The satellite will carry out surveillance of the Morocco’s borders, coastlines as well as monitor desertification.
Kenya has a suitable geographic position on the equator that makes it one of the best places to launch satellites into geostationary and other orbits. In 2012, Kenya launched its space project. On May 11, 2018, Kenya joined the other African nations in list and launched its first home-designed nano-satellite that was made in the University of Nairobi. The nano-satellite, 10cmX10cm weighed 1.2 kilograms was designed with the help of experts from the Sapienza University of Rome and Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA. They plan to make a bigger size of the nano-satellite in future.
Angola launched its first satellite, The AngoSat-1 late December 2017. The space project wasn’t successful as they lost communication with the device after it was launched. Even after they got contact with the device days after, it still suffered many technical issues months after until it was officially declared lost. The project was partly sponsored by Russia and plans have already been put in place to launch again in 2020 according to Russia’s space agency.
AngoSat-1 was Angola’s first space project which is scheduled for 15 years and aimed at improving the country’s telecommunications. Close to 50 Angolan aerospace engineers were trained to oversee the mission from the control center in Angola.
Of late, the African Union Working Group on Space approved a draft African space policy. They are presently working on a comprehensive space strategy. The project may have to depend on political relations between Nigeria and South Africa which are already strong in the continent. Satellites over Africa will help provide Internet connectivity to millions of people, especially in the rural areas.