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Rwanda looks to exploit data from satellite investment

Rwanda , 05 Nov 2019

Rwanda looks to exploit data from satellite investment

Patrick Nyirishema, Director-General for the Rwanda Utility and Regulatory Authority (RURA), has attributed the increasing number of African countries embarking on satellite projects to the advent of low-cost space technology.

Speaking at the official announcement of the arrival of Rwanda's first satellite, RWASAT-1, at the International Space Station, Nyirishema said: "Rwanda is new on this path of lean space technology, but we have chosen to build capacity on this first path. In the past, satellite technology cost hundreds of millions of dollars. We are now entering a period where it is possible to build low-cost satellites that can perform many applications."

According to the Nanosats Database curated by Erik Kulu, as of 30 October 2019, a total of 1150 low-cost satellites have been launched by 65 countries, with ten launched in Africa.

These satellites or CubeSats from Africa will be released from the ISS to low Earth orbit in late November 2019.

RWASAT-1 is Rwanda's first satellite, while NARSScube-1 is Egypt's eighth and the North African country's first CubeSat. It was developed by Egypt's National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences (NARSS).

NARSS said the mission goals for NARSScube-1 are to provide experience in building operating small satellites weighing less than 1kg, and to serve as technology demonstration to show NARSScube-1 can produce reliable data from space.

NARSScube-1 will also promote applied research in space engineering in Egyptian universities and research Institutes.

RWASAT-1was built by a team of Rwandan engineers with support and supervision from the University of Tokyo. It was designed for space research and will help the Rwandan government to monitor water resources, natural disasters, agriculture and meteorology.

The satellite has advanced cameras for collecting data which will then be transmitted to ground control centres in Kigali.

Paula Ingabire, Rwanda's Minister for ICT and Innovation, said both the Ministry of Agriculture and agricultural institutions will use data from RWASAT-1 for urban planning and natural resources exploration, to predict crop yield and monitor soil moisture.

African countries that have embarked on past and current satellite projects include Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

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