Algeria’s first communications satellite, AlComSat-1, clocks two years in orbit since its launch on 11 December 2017, from Xichang Satellite Launch Center (XSLC), aboard a Long March-3B launch vehicle.
The 5,225kg large communications satellite was developed and launched into space by a consortium of Chinese space companies led by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), following an in-orbit delivery contract awarded to the China Great Wall Industry Corporation(CGWIC) in 2013 by the Algerian government.
Positioned at 24.8 ° West at 36000 km, Alcomsat-1 provides national and regional coverage in North Africa and the Sahel region. The satellite has an orbital life of 15 years.
Alcomsat-1 contributes, among other things, to the improvement of communications for the opening up of remote areas, and the provision of a range of commercial services ranging from the broadcasting of TV and Radio broadcasts to the transmission of data, e-education and telemedicine.
ASAL, in a statement, said the satellite has successfully undergone a series of tests in orbit to ensure the proper functioning of all subsystems and to calibrate the instruments on board to meet the requirements of different users, including six successful manoeuvres.
Nearly 150 Algerian engineers work on the Alcomsat Mission in different locations and roles, including operating the ground station, managing the satellite in orbit, optimizing transmission infrastructure and maintaining associated facilities.
Algerian engineers working with ASAL from the two Telecommunication Systems Exploitation Centers (CEST) in Bouchaoui and Boughzoul, carried out the satellite’s in-orbit testing, positioning and manoeuvres.
For a performance test, ASAL provided interconnection via Alcomsat-1 between national education and health institutions in Adrar, a province in southwestern Algeria. ASAL also demonstrated a test broadcast of the radio and television channels, as well as the launching of the radio and television broadcasting tests of the Algerian public channels (5 SD channels, 5 HD channels and 57 radios).
Upon successful performance tests in orbit, ASAL signed commercialisation deals with Algeria’s transmission services provider, Télédiffusion d’Algérie, to broadcast television and national radio channels, and Algeria Telecom Satellite (ATS) for VSAT satellite telecommunications services.
“Through the use of the Alcomsat-1 system, the ASAL has had positive and promising returns on the performance of communications and television broadcasting programs. These capabilities also serve to develop, with the sectors concerned, new applications in television broadcasting, telephony, data transmission, disaster management and live coverage of sports and cultural events, as this will ensure an optimal return on the investment, in addition to a response to strategic needs, and strengthening of sovereignty in this sensitive area,” ASAL notes.
Alcomsat-1 is the third communications satellite built by China for an African government; the first two are Nigeria’s NigComSat-1 launched in 2007 and its replacement satellite NigComSat-1R launched in 2011.
Joseph Ibeh is a Mandela Washington Fellow and Senior Analyst at Space in Africa. His experience spans industry research and market analysis with a focus on African-grown NewSpace companies, commercial space industry, national space programmes and real-life application of space science for sustainable development in Africa.