Few months after the celebratory launch of Angola’s first Satellite, the project has been finally declared defunct by Russia—which had partly funded the project.
In December 2017, Angola joined the elite number of African countries with Satellites including Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt & Ghana with the launch of the AngoSat-1, a communications satellite built for almost $3oo million from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
However, a day after the launch, communication with the device was lost. Despite restoring contact several days later, the project had several technical issues in the following month which led to the announcement of its official loss on Monday.
The fact that the Satellite which was meant to last for about 15 years barely survived for about four months is a cause of worry; as the South African Nation in its readiness to participate in the space industry had trained over 50 space engineers in different part of the world to man the control centre in Angola. The project was also meant to improve telecommunications in the country; meaning that the current loss, is a huge blow to the industry.
In 2017, Angola made public its long-term plans to explore various areas of space technology, showing ambition for a steady expansion in the coming years. However, it is unclear how the failure of the AngoSat-1 will affect the multiyear plan.
However, it is not all bad news as Russia who built the first Satellite on behalf of Angola has said that it would start building a more powerful follow-up satellite at no cost, as per AngoSAT-1’s insurance policy. The Russian Space Agency says the new satellite will take about 18 months to build and will launch in 2020.
Meanwhile, it is good news that more and more African countries are beginning to have improved participation in the space industry. Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa already have several satellites in orbit going further than basic telecommunications. South Africa uses its satellite to collect date on potential environmental disasters such as flooding and fires, Ghana just recently launched a cubesat as part of the BIRDS 1 project built by the All Nations University to monitor its coastline and for educational purposes while Nigeria has used its satellite to monitor elections but to track the movements of Boko Haram insurgents.
Ethopia and Kenya are setting up their own space programmes and in 2016, the African Union set out an African Space Policy and Strategy. Hopefully, the framework by the AU will help to provide a resilient structure that space programmes on the continent can benefit from.
Angosat-1 had been intended to improve satellite communication, internet access and broadcasting of radio and television across Africa; hopefully with the expectation for AngoSat-2 and the increase participation of African countries we can explore the connection between space development and the social economic development of people on the continent.