Africa in Space
Countries across the continent making strides into space science
The countdown to the launch of Ethiopia’s first earth observatory satellite is on, with the date to hit orbit set for September of this year. Created in collaboration with China, the US$8 million device will be used to gather data on agriculture, water and climate change. A second satellite is planned to follow, with Ethiopian engineers independently running the design, build and launch. The project falls in line with the African Union’s recent passing of an African space policy, encouraging the use of satellite communication for economic progress and the development of a continental space program.
Leading the charge in the field of space travel, Nigeria plans to be the first African nation to send an astronaut into orbit, with hopes to visit space by 2030. Also, since 2003, the National Space Research and Development Agency has launched five satellites, helping to collect climate information, improve agricultural practices and even help with counter-terrorism operations.
South Africa has been chosen to co-host (with Australia) the world’s largest radio telescope, called the Square Kilometre Array, which will enable astronomers to look into the universe with unprecedented detail. The SKA is set to begin conducting observations in the mid-2020s with a partial array, later progressing to eventually cover more than a square kilometer of collecting area. South Africa is one of 12 member countries forming the cornerstone of the SKA project, but roughly 100 organizations across 20 countries are participating in the satellite’s design and development.
In early 2018, the Egyptian government passed a law enabling the establishment of the Egyptian Space Agency, with hopes to build and launch its own satellites.
A relative newcomer, Ghana is also making inroads into space technology, becoming the first Sub-Saharan country to launch an educational satellite in 2017. Two years prior, the Ghanaian government allocated a budget of US$10 million for nuclear and space technology.