Rwanda recently filed an application to join the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (C0PUOS) at the ongoing 62nd COPUOS session in Vienna, Austria.
COPUOS is the principal committee of the United Nations General Assembly set up in 1959 to govern the exploration and use of space for peace, security and development purposes. The Committee is responsible for reviewing international cooperation in peaceful uses of outer space, promoting space research programmes, making recommendations to the U.N. and addressing legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space.
Currently, COPUOS has 92 member states, 19 of which are from Africa. Rwanda will become the 93rd member and the 20th African country to join the Committee.
The space sector in Rwanda
In January 2019, the Rwandan government announced a long-term space programme aimed at growing the country’s uptake of space technologies and boosting research and development of space science.
The plan was announced in a bid to harmonise ongoing government collaborations with foreign partners that are related to space science and technology.
The government had earlier in May 2018 signed a space cooperation agreement with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), to start training Rwandan engineers in manufacturing small satellites with a view to growing the country’s space capabilities. Following the agreement, Rwanda is collaborating with Japanese space institutions and Tokyo University to develop a CubeSat, train young Rwandan engineers, and kick-start its national space program.
Last month, the government unveiled a prototype of the first Rwandan cube satellite named RwaSat at the Transform Africa Summit. RwaSat, which was developed in collaboration with Japan will be launched, next month. The CubeSat will be used to monitor agricultural and water resources as well as disaster management.
The Rwanda government invested an undisclosed amount in OneWeb, a global communications company building a constellation of satellites for providing internet connectivity around the world. The government further entered into an agreement with One Web with a view to achieving 10-year freemium internet connectivity across rural schools in Rwanda using the capacity of one of One Web’s precursor satellites before the country starts paying for satellite internet usage.
Rwanda is currently furthering its space ambitions under the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority with ongoing plans to establish a space agency and implement its national space programmes. The government plans to locally manufacture small satellites in the near future.