Egypt on Sunday, 28 July 2019, announced the launch of an Egyptian-made 1U CubeSat to the International Space Station, where it will be deployed into low Earth orbit for research purposes.
The cube satellite dubbed “NARSSCube-2” was completely designed, built and tested in Egypt by Egyptian aerospace engineers at the National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences (NARSS).
NARSSCube-2 follows the technical heritage of NARSS’ EgyCubeSat-1 prototype (later renamed NARSSCube-1), the first Egyptian CubeSat which was planned for launch in 2013 onboard Indian PSLV rocket but did not happen. In 2017, the CubeSat project was restarted and renamed NARSSCube.
NARSSCube-2 was originally scheduled to launch aboard Northrop Grumman’ Cygnus CRS-10 unmanned resupply mission to the ISS, but was delayed due to licensing issues. The CubeSat was finally launched on July 25, 2019 onboard SpaceX Dragon CRS-18 ISS resupply mission, which lifted off from the U.S Cape Canaveral spaceport utilising the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle. The CubeSat will be deployed to low Earth orbit in the coming days, where it will fulfil its mission objectives. Egypt collaborated with the Japanese Space Agency in testing the CubeSat, before shipping it to Cape Canaveral for launch.
Commenting on the milestone achieved by the Agency, Mohammad Zahran, Head of NARSS, said in his remarks to the media: “The satellite was wholly designed, programmed, tested and made by Egyptian engineers for research purposes, and to test the space systems that were designed inside the Egyptian space agency, which provide images with an accuracy of 150 metres”.
The CubeSat is 1kg in mass with a maximum lifespan expectancy of one year in orbit. The CubeSat reportedly costs about 10 million Egyptian pounds (about USD 602,770), according to media sources citing Zahran.
Zahran further revealed that Egypt will launch another CubeSat in the coming months. He also noted that Egypt is leading a sub-regional effort for the development of a new satellite to monitor the Nile Basin regions.
NARSSCube-2 is Egypt’s 7th satellite in space, and the 36th African satellite to be successfully launched into space.
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.