January 2, 2023

Ethiopia preparing to launch its third satellite into space


It is also revealed that efforts are underway for the establishment of a satellite manufacturing and assembly plant in Ethiopia

Avatar: Abiy Solomon
By Abiy Solomon

Abiy is the Editor-in-Chief of Addis Zeybe. He has intense experience in journalism, visual communication, and online media. Abiy has worked in various editorial positions for The Daily Monitor, The Reporter, Fortune, and BBC Media Action.

Ethiopia preparing to launch its third satellite into space
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Credit: Space in Africa (The Chinese Long March 4B rocket launching ETRSS-1)

Ethiopia is under preparations to launch its third satellite into space. The satellite to be named ETRSS-2 is an earth observation satellite with a higher image resolution than its predecessors ETRSS-1, and ET-Smart-RSS.

“We are already in the process of hiring consultants to prepare the technical specifications. The design and technical work of the satellite will be conducted jointly by Ethiopian and foreign professionals,” said Yeshurun Alemayehu (Ph.D.), Deputy Director of the Ethiopian Space Science & Technology Institute. 

Ethiopia launched its first earth observation satellite ETRSS-1 in December 2019 followed by the launch of the second nanosatellite named ET-Smart-RSS after a year in December 2020. 

Yeshurun told Addis Zeybe that the institute is overseeing three major projects which are the launching of ETRSS-2 and a communication satellite including the establishment of a satellite manufacturing and assembly plant.  

The previously launched two earth observation satellites are reported to have been monitoring the environment and weather patterns for better agricultural planning, drought early warning, mining activities, and forestry management of the country since their launch. 

The Ethiopian Space Science & Technology Institute told the Ethiopian News Agency that the first satellite played a substantial role in the water filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and land clearance in the area. 

“The data which has been received from the two satellites was helpful in supporting developmental activities. The second nanosatellite however has a running period ranging from 6 months to one year and has already run out of time by now,” said Yeshurun.  

The third satellite Ethiopia plans to launch is proposed to have a higher image resolution than its predecessors. ETRSS-1 has a 13.75-meter resolution, while ET-Smart-RSS produces 5.4-meter imagery. The third satellite is intended to have a resolution between 1 to 2 meters. 

In satellite imagery, the lower the meter number indicating the resolution is, the higher the image quality it can produce. 

According to Intermap, a renowned global company that provides geospatial solutions, in satellite imagery, resolution refers to the smallest size an object can be represented in an image. Higher resolution means that pixel sizes are smaller, providing more detail. For example, 30cm resolution satellite imagery can capture details on the ground that is greater than or equal to 30cm by 30cm. Based on this definition, 30cm resolution imagery would capture more photographic details than 1m resolution imagery.

The Deputy Director of the Space Science & Technology Institute also noted that Ethiopia has garnered remarkable experience and technical capacity from the launching and operation of the two satellites and it will soon be able to operate satellite projects independently. 

“After successful completion of the design and technical operation of the third satellite I hope we can conduct satellite operations on our own henceforth.”

To date, 52 satellites have been launched by 14 African nations. The first African satellite Sunsat-1 was launched in 1998 by South Africa. The East African countries, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda, and Rwanda launched seven satellites into space. Kenya and Ethiopia take the lead in the East African region having two satellites each.  

Speaking with the Space in Africa online publication on 14 October 2019, Dr. Solomon Belay, the Director-General of the Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute, said the Ethiopian government signed an agreement with the French company ArianeGroup to build a satellite manufacturing, assembly, integration, and testing (MAIT) facility in Addis Ababa.