The Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute (ESSTI) has disclosed that it would be launching its first Earth Observation satellite in the last quarter of 2019.
The satellite, which is being launched for the purpose of monitoring water, agriculture, climate, environment and mining, was initially scheduled for launch in September 2019. However, the Institute is making plans to reschedule the launch date of the satellite, citing weather constraints and the need to do a perfect job.
In an exclusive interview with the Director General of the Institute, Dr Solomon Belay Tessema, it was revealed that while the satellite project was going smoothly, there is a need to put some finishing touches.
“Everything is going according to plan. The assembly is finalised, the ground station is completed, and more equipment is on its way from China. Third-party insurance is also being covered”, said Tessema. “There would, however, be a little delay because of rainfall in Addis Ababa. We are still expecting more equipment (such as antennas), and there is also a need to set up the receiver station. Construction is ongoing, but we are waiting to test it. From the look of things, we may have to shift the launch date from late September to the first week of December, to avoid any margin for error.
“Space needs more international collaboration and good collaborators at national and regional levels. The main purpose of this 70kg Earth Observation satellite is for the monitoring of agriculture, water, climate, environment and mining. The satellite is also being built for the purpose of training our engineers from scratch, as well as the exchange and transfer of knowledge and technology. Plans are going well so far and there are no major challenges. The financing of the project in itself is being partly covered by the Ethiopian government, particularly in respect of work on the ground station and travel expenses for our engineers being sent to China to gain some expertise. The manufacturing of the satellite and continuous training of our staff is also partly funded by the Chinese government”, Tessema added, while elaborating on the progress rate of the satellite project.
The history of interest in space science and technology in Ethiopia dates back to 2004 when three aspiring astronomers gathered a group of 47 space enthusiasts to form the Ethiopian Space Science Society. The Society, which has recruited over 10,000 members since being launched in 2004, achieved the milestone of establishing East Africa’s only space observatory facility on the 3,200-metre hills of Entoto.
In October 2016, the Ethiopian Council of Ministers approved the Establishment of Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute (ESSTI). Following the establishment of the Space Institute, the Ethiopian Council of Ministers announced the nation’s ambition to launch an earth observatory satellite into orbit in 3-5 years to improve its weather-monitoring capabilities.
Jerry Chiemeke is an editor, writer and mental health advocate. His works have appeared in Bellanaija, True Nollywood Stories, Music In Africa and The Guardian, among others. Jerry is the winner of the 2017 Ken Saro Wiwa Prize for Reviews. He is a Senior Editor at Space in Africa.