Ethiopia is set to commence the second phase of its space strategic development roadmap, which involves the construction of satellite manufacturing, assembly, integration and testing (MAIT) facilities.
In a recent disclosure to Space in Africa, the General Director of the Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute (ESSTI), Dr Solomon Belay, hinted that the Ethiopian government has reached an agreement with French space company, ArianeGroup, to commence the construction of MAIT facilities in Addis Ababa in January 2020 with a completion timeline of 30 months.
Dr Belay did not reveal the terms of the deal with ArianeGroup and the cost of the project.
However, a statement released by Ethiopia’s Ministry of Innovation and Technology notes the “support” of European Investment Bank in the project, and a tripartite agreement between the Bank, the Ethiopian government and ArianeGroup.
Space Engineering Research and Development Directorate (SERDD), a division under the ESSTI, has been designated with a leading role of managing the MAIT centre and maximizing its capacity in developing indigenous satellite systems and components.
According to the strategic plan and development roadmap obtained by Space in Africa, to help realise the mission stated under Aerospace Manufacturing, Assembly, Integration, and Test Facilities Development segment, SERDD may concentrate on the “design, development and manufacturing of highly accurate, precise, portable, easily maintainable, replaceable, and automated MAIT equipments that may not only be used for aerospace industry but also other manufacturing industries”.
The other facilities currently under construction is a mechanical and electrical laboratory. The Directorate believes that having these laboratories will aid in the research and development of new technologies in the aerospace field.
The project, when completed and put into operation, will be of great help not only to Ethiopia but also to the East African space sector. Ethiopian engineers will be involved in the project. It is expected to create technology and knowledge transfer.
In Africa, only South Africa and Algeria have functional AIT facilities. Egypt recently commenced the construction of its AIT centre in collaboration with China. Nigeria is also looking to complete its AIT facilities since it began the project over 8 years ago.
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.