Egyptian Space Agency, alongside their Chinese counterpart yesterday announced the start of the implementation of the second phase of the China-funded “MisrSat II” satellite project.
According to Xinhua, Egyptian and Chinese officials held a ceremony to launch the satellite project during the fourth China-Arab States Expo, which kicked off Thursday in Ningxia’s regional capital Yinchuan, China.
On Sunday, both countries’ officials held a kick-off meeting at the Egyptian Space City near Egypt’s new administrative capital, announcing the official start of the project.
“This is the kick-off meeting for starting the project of MisrSat II satellite which will be implemented thanks to a grant from China,” Ahmed al-Rafie, head of the MisrSat II Satellite project, told Xinhua, adding “the satellite will help Egypt with its development plans in many fields.”
Beijing and Cairo signed a USD 72 million grant for Egypt’s space programme on 21 January 2019, which is the third grant provided by China to Egypt for a satellite project. Both countries initially signed a grant of USD 23 million given in 2016, and a second grant worth USD 45 million provided in 2018.
Egyptian engineers and their Chinese counterparts will collaborate in developing the satellite project and in the construction of Egypt’s Assembly, Integration and Testing centre.
“The design phases will be carried out in parallel in Egypt and China, but the assembly and integration of the satellite will be done in Egypt at Egyptian Satellite Assembly, Integration and Test Center,” said Mr al-Rafie. “This will provide the Egyptian side with experience in the development of satellite space systems.”
The official said the satellite will be developed within the next 35 months, and it is expected to last five years in space.
Egypt is also working on a ground control station and application system to support the operation of the satellite in collaboration with Chinese engineers.
Commenting on the project, Chinese Ambassador to Egypt, Liao Liqiang, described the partnership as achieving “four firsts”.
According to Ambassador, the first milestone is that Egypt is the first country to carry out satellite cooperation with China under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.
“The second is that China will help Egypt build a complete satellite assembly integration and test centre, in which scientists and engineers from China and Egypt will jointly complete the assembly, integration and test of Egypt’s MisrSat II.”
The third, Liao said, is that China will help Egypt build its aerospace team, and will jointly train Egyptian aerospace experts.
“The fourth is that after the project is completed, Egypt will be the first African country to have complete satellite assembly integration testing capabilities,” he added.
Liao further emphasised China’s commitment to maintaining bilateral space cooperation with Egypt.
So far, Egypt has launched seven satellites into space, and is anticipating the launch of its 8th satellite on 11 September 2019, onboard the Japanese Kounotori 8 (HTV-8) unmanned cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station.
In 2017, Egypt’s Council of Ministers approved a law allowing the President to establish an Egyptian Space Agency with the mandate to coordinate Egypt’s national space programme. The Agency is expected to help build Egypt’s capabilities in areas of satellite design and fabrication, space science and application, and launch systems.
Egypt in February won the bid to host the proposed African Space Agency.
Joseph Ibeh is a Mandela Washington Fellow and Senior Editor at Space in Africa. He writes about Africa’s NewSpace companies and emerging national space programs.