The Ethiopian Space Science & Technology Institute (ESSTI) has confirmed launch details of its ET-SMART-RSS nanosatellite scheduled for launch on 20 December 2020 onboard a Chinese rocket from the Wenchang Launch Center in Hainan Province of China, according to a recent disclosure to Space in Africa by ESSTI’s Deputy Director General, Dr Yeshurun Alemayehu.
ET-SMART-RSS is a 6U nanosatellite jointly developed by ESSTI and Chinese newspace company Beijing Smart Satellite Technology (SMART).
The primary mission of the satellite is to provide earth observation services to China and African countries, as well as strengthen collaboration between ESSTI and SMART who have set out to jointly do business in Africa.
Smart Satellite and ESSTI inked the deal to co-develop the satellite on 23 August 2019, in a signing ceremony held in Beijing Sun Valley Industrial Park, China. ESSTI agreed to become a “strategic partner of Smart Satellite’s African business, and both sides have pledged to jointly expand into the African space market in the future,” an earlier statement by SMART reads in part.
Commenting on the genesis of the collaboration; Dr Alemayehu said he met representatives of Smart Satellite in China during the China Space Day anniversary held in Changsha in 2018.
“During that time I presented on a topic “Socioeconomic Benefit of Satellite Technology for Africa”. SMART after attending the presentation, we met and discussed their idea to do space business in Africa. For that, we defined a project called EthSat6U, a 6 Unit earth observation CubeSat.”
The nanosatellite was recently renamed ET-SMART-RSS from EthSat6U to show the cooperation between ESSTI and SMART boldly. (ET= Ethiopia/ ESSTI and SMART= Beijing Smart Satellite Technology and RSS=Remote Sensing Satellite).
Dr Alemayehu said he led a team at ESSTI who prepared the preliminary design of the satellite and then the critical design. Smart Satellite handled the manufacturing, assembly, integration and testing (MAIT) in close consultation with the ESSTI team.
The total cost of the satellite project is about USD 1.5 million and is funded jointly by the Belt & Road Initiative and Sunny Group.
“This satellite is the beginning of our cooperation. We shall continue to develop other high-resolution satellites jointly, do satellite business (selling satellite imagery data) and human capacity development in experience and technology transfer and related issues,” Dr Yeshurun concludes on what the future holds for ESSTI’s collaboration with SMART.
Ethiopia will record an additional eye in space when ET-SMART-RSS launches into orbit in late December. The East African country recorded its first in-orbit asset last year following the successful launch of ETRSS-1 in December. ESSTI will directly receive data from ET-SMART-RSS via its ground station in Addis Ababa.