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Ethiopia said 12 January 2017 it would launch a civilian satellite into orbit in three to five years to better predict weather conditions and for remote sensing activities inside the country. The Ethiopian Ministry of Science and Technology said the country ess likely to launch the satellite from a facility in China. It is not clear how much the project will cost and whether it will have military uses. Ethiopia aimed to be a space science hub and has a Space Science Council chaired by the prime minister.

The announcement came after a severe drought left more than 10 million people hungry and killed several thousands of animals in the past two years. In early 2016 a program was being tested that provided satellite maps of land traditionally grazed by cattle owned by pastoralist groups. They help communities identify where to go and potentially reduce cattle loss and improve food security. The satellite-assisted pastoral resource management program run by Project Concern provides pastoralists with maps that show which areas are better than others. Community leaders consult the maps and then dispatch scouts to the areas for confirmation. It saves time and helps leaders make better decisions.

Ethiopian capacity to build its own satellites is increasing, thanks in part to partnerships with foreign governments and companies, said Wondwosen Andualem, spokesman for the Ethiopian Ministry of Science and Technology. The Ethiopian government said it plans to build both the satellites and launch rockets locally with minimum reliance on foreign partners. In November 2015, the Mekele Institute of Technology in Ethiopia launched a rocket called Alpha Meles 30 kilometers into space. The rocket cost an estimated U.S.$2.3 million to develop, build, and launch. There have been no reports of subsequent launches.

Ministry Public Relations Director Wondwosen Andualem said a prototype of the carrier rocket was prepared as a launch pad for the actual work. Both the satellite and its carrier rocket would be locally manufactured according to the Director, who indicated its significance for security, weather forecast and other services. “Efforts are ongoing to launch into space a medium sized rocket within the coming three years,” Andualem said. Ethiopia’s efforts to manufacture the satellite and its carrier rocket locally will allow the country to compete with other countries seeking to launch satellites at the equator, Andualem said.

The government has created the Space Science Council and the Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute, both headed by the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

The Ethiopian Space Science Society, launched in 2004 by three aspiring astronomers, has recruited 10,000 members. It opened East Africa’s only space observatory on the 10,500-foot summit of Mount Entoto, overlooking Addis Ababa. The astronomical observatory founded in Ethiopia by a private company in August of 2015 was the first step toward a space program in East Africa, and other countries like Nigeria and South Africa have launched satellites within the last two decades.

Egypt, fearing its access to the Nile river will be hindered, plans to use a new satellite to track Ethiopia’s construction of Africa’s largest dam. The Egysat, launched in March 2016, will monitor Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam by capturing high quality photos of the construction site along with other sources of the Nile.



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