Tunisia has always immersed itself in aviation and aerospace, from the country’s first balloon flight in 1784 to Louis Bleriot’s flying demonstration in the Tunisian capital, in 1910. The north African country has also been interested in the peaceful exploration of space since the launch of first satellite in space in 1957 that culminated into the creation of the National commission of outer space in 1984 and the national Centre of cartography and Remote sensing in 1988.
Under the National Space Program directed by the National Commission for Outer Space affairs, the role is to coordinate the activities of the various ministerial departments and organizations concerned with outer space and to generate media awareness of the benefits to be acquired from exploiting the opportunities offered by space technologies—the activities of the different actors involved are federated by the setting up of five discussion groups on legal and regulatory aspects, Space Techniques and Technologies, Space Telecommunications, Earth Observation and remote sensing and Training and Awareness-raising.
Tunisia have been contributing to activities of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) and the International Institute of Space Law (IISL) by Tunisian scientific associations. In July 1988, a National Institute dealing with Geomatics had to be created (CNCT) to meet the needs of data through its contribution to projects related to the national priority issues through studies and projects.
However, what has the country been up to in the past one year?
The big one is the latest news that China has established the first overseas Beidou Satellite Centre in Tunis, the country’s capital. The Centre which was commissioned last week is aimed at strengthening cooperation in satellite navigation between China and the Arab nations. In a statement released by China Satellite Navigation Office, this will enable China to offer more Beidou-based services in the Arab world.
Beidou is one of the four space-based navigation networks along with GPS from the United States, GLONASS from Russia and Galileo from the European Union. And since 2000 when the first satellite was placed into Orbit, 33 other satellites have been launched for the network. It provides positioning, navigation, timing and messaging services to civilian users in China and parts of the Asia-Pacific region.
Recently, the 7th edition of the Tunisian Aero day was held, where young students are able to present their projects.The country was also represented at the United Nations Symposium on Access to Space: Holistic Capacity Building for the 21st Century, organized by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and Co-organized by the government of Austria. This was regarded as one of the flagship events in preparation of UNISPACE+50 and the participation was very helpful in building relations with UNOOSA, ESA, Universities and Industries in Europe, also keeping the nation updated on activities related to space. In March this year, the country organized a spaced conference titled “Towards a Tunisian National Space Strategy” coordinated by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific research. Participants included Mr. Niklas HEDMAN (Representative of UNOOSA), Ms. Claudie HAIGNERÉ (Representative of ESA), and HE Dr. P.G. Diwakar (Representative of Indian Space Research Organization), Mr. Jean – Yves LE GALL (President of CNES, France), Mr. Roberto IBBA and (Representative of Italian Space Agency, Italy). The discussions revolved around Space technologies and Sustainable development, lessons from international experience, emerging trends in space technologies, emerging trends and prospects for cooperation with Tunisia etc.
The event also featured several workshops on Earth Observation and application areas—needs and priorities, Space Technologies for Communications, Space Technologies and Infrastructures.
The Ministry of Defense organized a visit to the National Center for Cartography and Remote Sensing in April where the Director General of the National Centre for Cartography and Remote Sensing, Brigadier Zuhair Al-Jandali hinted that the Centre is currently in the process of joining the National Committee for Outer Space on the completion of a satellite for Tunisia; emphasizing that the new satellite will be focused on socio-economic areas, especially communications.
It is planned that Tunisia will participate as well to the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, 61st session, lately on June 20th, 29th 2018 in Vienna, Austria.