Egypt and Rwanda are set to launch cube satellites, NARSSCube-1 and RwaSat-1 respectively, to the International Space Station, onboard the Japanese Kounotori 8 (HTV-8) unmanned cargo resupply mission to ISS.
The cube satellites were initially scheduled for launch in April 2019 by the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA), but were rescheduled to September due to adverse weather conditions, and unavailability of a launch vehicle.
According to JAXA, the Kounotori 8 resupply mission is planned to take off on September 11, which marks the 10th anniversary since the launch of the first Kounotori expendable cargo spacecraft used to resupply the Kibō Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) on the ISS on September 11, 2009.
Dr. Ayman Mahmoud, the Space Imaging Team Lead of the Egyptian Space Programme at the National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Science, confirmed to Space in Africa that the Agency has long completed the flight model of the NARSSCube-1 cube satellite which is ready for launch in September.
“NARSScube-1 was supposed to be launched by JAXA in April 2019, but it was deferred to September 2019 by the Japanese H-2B rocket to ISS,” Dr. Mahmoud said. “The release of the satellite is planned to be scheduled for one or two months later, either in October or November, or to be defined later on”.
NARSSCube-1 was designed and integrated by Egyptian engineers in collaboration with the Japanese Kyushu Institute of Technology. NARSSCube-1 is one of the three cube satellites developed by Egypt’s NARSSCube satellite programme, which started in July 2017 with the goal of “demonstrating in orbit, the capabilities of the NARSS team to develop in-house satellite subsystems”.
Upon its launch in September, NARSSCube-1 will become Egypt’s 8th satellite in space, following the successful launch of NARSSCube-2 on July 25, 2019, onboard SpaceX Dragon CRS-18 resupply mission to the ISS.
On the other hand, RwaSat-1 is Rwanda’s first satellite. The cube satellite was developed at the University of Tokyo by Rwandan engineers, in collaboration with engineers from the Japanese University of Fukui.
Rwanda sent some of its fine engineers to Japan to work on the RwaSat-1 cube satellite in partnership with Tokyo University, following an agreement which the government signed with its Japanese counterpart on the sidelines of the Transform Africa Summit in May 2018.
NARSSCube-1 and RwaSat-1 will both provide the respective countries with the opportunity to collect remote sensing data from low Earth orbit, and further demonstrate the nations’ emerging capability in space science and engineering.
Joseph Ibeh is a Mandela Washington Fellow and Senior Editor at Space in Africa. He writes about Africa’s NewSpace companies and emerging national space programs.