Egypt has upgraded the National Authority for Remote Sensing & Space Sciences(NARSS), its pioneering institute in the field of space technology and Earth observation, to become its principal space agency.
In a process that began early last year following the ratification in January 2018 of the law to establish the Egyptian Space Agency, the Egyptian government set out to harmonize its National Space Programme to focus on the development of indigenous space capabilities and commercialization of its capacity.
According to an official of NARSS who spoke to Space in Africa, the Egyptian space programme managed by NARSS was successfully upgraded to become the Egyptian Space Agency through a structural transition that was concluded three months ago.
Antecedents to the launch of Egypt’s space programme dates back to the establishment of the NARSS in 1994 as the pioneering space institution under the State Ministry of Scientific Research. Earlier remote sensing initiatives started in Egypt in 1971 within the frame of the Egyptian Academy of Scientific Research and Technology (ASRT), leading to the establishment of a Remote Sensing Centre in 1972 through an American-Egyptian joint project. NARSS is an offshoot of the Remote Sensing Centre established under ASRT.
On 26 May 1999, NARSS got approval on the recommendation of the Egyptian Space Council to create an Egyptian space programme with a mandate to enable Egypt to develop technical capabilities in the manufacture and use of space technologies.
Since its establishment, NARSS progressed from an outreach institution to becoming Egypt’s leading institution with expertise in remote sensing applications and space science and technology. The Institution runs Egypt’s national space programme and operates the country’s Earth observation satellites.
The institution has been at the forefront of Egypt’s space programme and space diplomacy by engaging with foreign partners and technical supplies on behalf of the Egyptian government. NARSS boost of maintaining collaboration with 44 international partners.
In December 2017, Egypt’s House of Representatives approved a law to establish the Egyptian Space Agency, and in January 2018 the Egyptian President ratified the law. The new law establishing the Egyptian Space Agency emphasises the need to develop space capabilities and manufacture satellite technologies in Egypt. Integrating NARSS with over two decades of expertise into the Egyptian Space Agency eliminates duplication of efforts y between two government agencies with the same mandate.
The Egyptian Space Agency is undergoing administrative processes to ensure it has a great footing. In August, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi inaugurated a new board of directors for the Egyptian Space Agency which is headed by the Egyptian Prime Minister, with membership comprising of the Ministers of Higher Education and Communications, as well as the CEO of the Agency and the head of the scientific research academy.
Following the inauguration of the board, President El-Sisi appointed Mohamed Afifi El-Qosi as the CEO of the Agency and Mohamed Khalil Ibrahim as the Deputy CEO.
The Egyptian Space Agency is charged with the mandate to harness Egypt’s capacity in space science and technology while helping the country to fully realize the commercial and social benefits of space.
The Egyptian government plans to massively invest in space technologies with the hope of generating at least 10 per cent of its national income from the space sector in the next decade, according to a statement attributed to the Egyptian Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Khalid Atef Abdul Ghaffar.
Egypt was endorsed as the host of the African Space Agency at the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union which held at the African Union Headquarter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in February 2019.
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.