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Egypt to launch first satellite for climate monitoring

Updated: Nov 20, 2022

The satellite prototype will be displayed at COP 27 in Sharm El-Sheikh

Bonface Orucho, bird story agency.

After years of research, the Africa Development Satellite Initiative, AfDev-Sat, will display its prototype satellite at COP 27 in Sharm El-Sheikh through the Egyptian Space Agency.

Egypt announced plans to use the upcoming UN climate conference sessions to showcase the prototype, which has been in development since 2019.

Egypt to launch first satellite for climate monitoring [Graphics: Hope Mukami]

Revealing these plans in an address at a two-day engineers’ conference held on 22 October, Ahmed Farag, head of the Space Committee of the Syndicate of Engineers, described the development as one that would open up the possibilities of leveraging on space innovations to respond to floods, droughts and landslides caused by climate change.

The AfDev-Sat initiative brings Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Sudan and Egypt in the pilot innovation to launch a satellite project that will aid disaster monitoring, climate change detection, and agriculture and water resources monitoring in African countries. AfDev-Sat initiative is steered by the Egyptian Space Agency.

Egypt is also home to the African Space Agency, an organ of the African Union that deals with promoting, advising and coordinating the development and utilisation of space science and technology in Africa, aiming at using these to foster intra-African and international cooperation.

A working document signed by the parties on 30 January 2022 during a progress meeting in Cairo, the latest meeting held by the members, indicates that “each satellite subsystem will be built in one of participating countries”, after which they will be assembled in Egypt.

While satellite technology in climate action is in its preliminary stages in Africa, there are existing systems that can be leveraged to realise climate monitoring and prompt climate change detection.

The Space Generation Advisory Council estimates that about 20 African satellites have been launched by African countries between 2016 and 2020, summing up to 41 satellites.

Egypt, South Africa, Algeria, Nigeria, Morocco, Ghana, Sudan, Ethiopia, Angola, Kenya, Rwanda, and Mauritius have at least one satellite facility.

South Africa was the first country to launch a locally-manufactured satellite in Africa in 1999. It recently launched three nanosatellites in January 2022 under the Maritime Domain Awareness Satellite (MDASat) program intending to use them to boost the security of South African marine resources.

Ms Stella Chelangat Mutai, a Geospatial Information Science consultant for World Food Programme in the Southern and Eastern African region, describes the continent as one that “has a rich potential of using satellite technology in climate monitoring, especially with the increased discussions on areas of space partnership at continental and international levels.”

“National space agencies, the meteorological departments, digital earth Africa and the regional centre for resource mapping and development are key players that have shown intention to be on-boarded in discussions on effective climate change monitoring in Africa,” she explains to Bird.

Mutai believes an Africa-wide climate monitoring system using satellite technology can be attained through strengthened capacity and increasing international agreements for space-related resources.

“Current policies driving the use of space technology require re-evaluation so that gaps can be bridged. This will certainly ensure streamlining of the policies to factor in climate monitoring.”

Some vital continental units have prioritised capacity building in space technology data. On 31 October, for instance, the Africa Union Commission hosted Chinese astronauts in a facilitated dialogue bringing on board Chinese astronauts and space technology students from Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia and South Africa.

Yang Jun, representing the Chinese Ambassador in Namibia at the event, revealed that China and Namibia would be launching a partnership to establish a satellite digital-receiving ground station in Namibia.

Continental-level collaborations can also facilitate the development of satellites purposely for climate monitoring due to the high costs of satellite development.

“The African Development Satellite Initiative and other similar continent-level initiatives will facilitate pooling of resources and facilitate spreading of risks unlike each state working on their climate monitoring satellites individually,” Mutai says.

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