The satellite, named ET-SMART-RSS, is a 6U nanosatellite weighing 8.9 kilograms with high resolution. China’s newspace company Beijing Smart Satellite Technology (Smart Satellite) and the Ethiopian Space Science & Technology Institute (ESSTI) jointly developed the satellite which was assembled and tested in China. The primary mission of the satellite is to provide earth observation services to China and African countries, according to a statement by Smart Satellite.
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 the African space market in the future,” the statement reads.
The ET-SMART-RSS nanosatellite will be launched later this year from China’s newly inaugurated Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in Hainan province on board a Chinese rocket. The satellite cost about USD 1.5 million which is covered by Smart Satellite, according to a recent statement by ESSTI.
In December 2019, Ethiopia launched its first satellite named ETRSS-1, a 70kg multi-spectral remote sensing satellite from China onboard a Chinese Long March 4B rocket. The China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) developed the satellite in collaboration with 21 Ethiopian technicians, trained on the project as part of the technology-transfer agreement between Beijing and Addis Ababa. The Chinese government provided 75% of the total cost of the ETRSS-1 satellite, worth about USD 6 million, and helped to launch the satellite.
ET-SMART-RSS marks another worthwhile achievement in Ethiopia’s space ambitions as the East African nation conceives a longterm plan of having indigenous capabilities in the development and operation of satellite systems. The construction of satellite manufacturing, assembly, integration and testing (MAIT) facilities in Addis Ababa is the works following the agreement signed by the Ethiopian government and French space company ArianeGroup with funding from the European Investment Bank.
Ethiopia also plans to launch a third satellite following a contract the government signed with China for the construction of a communication satellite for commercial telecommunications and broadcasting services. The details of the contract and the satellite development timeline have not been disclosed.
We previously reported that the satellite was assembled locally in Ethiopia. We have corrected the information with the latest update on the project. We also added additional information such as ESTTI’s Chinese partner on the project, the name and cost of the satellite and the proposed launch site.
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.