Egypt’s principal space agency, the National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences (NARSS), has announced plans to launch two additional cubesatellites (NARSSCube-1 & NARSSCube-3) into space by November 2019 and the third quarter of 2020, respectively.
The NARSSCube satellite programme started in July 2017 with the goal of “demonstrating, in orbit, the capabilities of the NARSS team to develop in-house satellite subsystems”. The programme is providing Egyptian engineers and scientists with hands-on research experience in nanosatellite subsystems, which will ultimately bolster Egypt’s capabilities in space science and engineering.
NARSS received a total project funding of about 13 million EGP (approximately USD 783,533) from the Academy of Scientific Research in Egypt (ASRT) to build three cube satellites: NARSSCube-1 (1U), NARSSCube-2 (1U) and NARSSCube-3 (3U).
NARSS has already completed the design and construction of NARSSCube 1 & 2, which are twin 1U experimental CubeSats. NARSSCube-2 was launched on July 25, 2019 on board theSpaceX Dragon CRS-18 resupply mission to the International Space Station.
NARSSCube-1 was delivered to the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) for final testing, in preparation for a planned launch in April 2019. However, a recent update from NARSS reveals that the launch will most likely happen in September 2019.
The Agency is currently developing the more advanced 3U NARSSCube-3, with launching scheduled for the third quarter of 2020.
NARSS develops the cube satellites in-house within Egyptian territory, from design to component fabrication, integration and testing, except the solar panels which were provided by GomSpace. About 23 NARSS engineers are involved in the project.
In a report NARSS sent to the Egyptian Minister of Higher Education, Khalid Abdel Ghaffar, the Agency noted that it is collaborating with 10 local research and industrial bodies to launch a series of Egyptian-made satellites. Although Egypt has already flown six satellites into space – including three Earth observation satellites and three communications satellites – none was built by Egyptian engineers using facilities in Egypt. Satellite manufacturing companies in France, Russia and Ukraine served as prime contractors for previous Egyptian satellites.
While NARSSCube-2 will become the 7th Egyptian satellite in space upon deployment from the ISS, the CubeSat will most remarkably be remembered for being the country’s first indigenously-made satellite to reach space.
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.