Tunisia’s first satellite, Challenge ONE, will be launched in July 2020 from the Russian-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in south-central Kazakhstan aboard the Russian Soyuz-2.1A, reports Tunis Afrique Presse (TAP) news agency citing Telnet CEO Mohamed Frikha as saying.
Challenge ONE is a scientific research and technology demonstrator satellite offering new concepts in information technologies and their practical applications. The small satellite is developed in-house by Tunisia’s publicly traded engineering and technology consulting company, Telnet Group.
“The satellite cost one million Tunisian dinars (about 349,825 U.S. dollars), while its global counterpart cost about 5 million Tunisian dinars (1.7 million U.S. dollars),” Frikka said.
“We were able to control costs thanks to the technological resources of the Telnet group, which opened up new horizons for the space technology sector in Tunisia through cooperation with international partners,” he added.
On 1 April 2019, Telnet signed a contract with the Russian operator of commercial launches of Soyuz-2 rockets, GK Launch Services, for putting in space Tunisia’s first satellite in 2020.
Challenge ONE in-orbit operation will serve as a precursor mission for a constellation of 30 satellites.
Telnet Group has already signed a tripartite deal with two Russian companies, SPUTNIX and GK Launch Services, for the launch of the 30-satellite constellation by 2023 for the development of a network of IoT applications.
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.