The three satellites were launched into space on 26 September 2016, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India onboard Indian launcher PSLV-C 35.
Algerian engineers assembled, integrated, and tested both AlSat-2B and AlSat-1B at the Algerian Satellite Development Centre (CDS) in Oran in a Technology Know-How Transfer arrangement with EADS Astrium (now Airbus Defence and Space) and Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL), respectively.
AlSat-2B is a continuation of the Algerian mini-constellation comprising of its twin AlSat-2A EO satellite, built by EADS Astrium. AlSat-2B has a high-resolution of 2.5m and is placed in a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 670 km. It is operating with a phase shift of 180 ° behind its Alsat-2A, which has exceeded ten years of operational lifespan in orbit.
“During these four years, AlSat-2B provided more than 78,000 scenes in panchromatic and multispectral mode covering the whole of the earth, but mainly (nearly 50%) the national territory and the African continent (20%), to answer the needs of the various national user sectors in their economic and sustainable development programs. This number represents a total length of acquired images of more than 665,426 km and a covered area of more than 11.644 million km,” an anniversary statement by ASAL reads in part.
The medium-resolution AlSat-1B, which is a continuation of the SSTL-led Disaster Monitoring Constellation, has achieved a similar feat providing over 9,130 image products covering a total area of over 205 million km2 since launch year to date.
AlSat-1N nanosatellite is the output of ASAL’s collaboration with the UK Space Agency (UKSA) following an MoU signed by both parties in October 2014. In the bilateral cooperation, both parties agreed to establish a joint educational nanosatellite development programme at the Surrey Space Centre (SSC) of the University of Surrey, UK.
As part of the educational programme at SSC, Algerian engineers and their UK counterparts jointly developed a 3U CubeSat AlSat-1N (AlSat Nano 1) for an accelerated and cost-effective demonstration of NewSpace technologies. The UK engineers were responsible for the system hardware design and development, while their Algerian counterparts handled final assembly, integration, and testing (AIT), launch and operations. ASAL engineers were trained in three key areas covering AIT, environmental verification and testing (EVT), and operations, the last being essential for the handover of the nanosatellite from the SSC to ASAL.
Now in its fourth year in orbit, AlSat-1N has far exceeded its designed nominal lifespan of one year. ASAL attributes the success to the satellite control system and the automation of ground operations developed by its team who optimized the operations times while preserving operational capabilities.
These satellites contribute to Algeria’s Earth observation capabilities and are helping the country mitigate significant environmental risks and monitor natural resources. ASAL said the AlSat-1N joint project helped Algerian engineers to acquire skills in developing, integrating, and monitoring of nanosatellites. The Agency has achieved autonomy in the field of nanosatellite operations.
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.