July blast-off for Rwanda Space Agency
The recently established Rwanda Space Agency (RSA) is scheduled for official launch in July 2020, according to the country’s Minister of ICT and Innovation Paula Ingabire.
In May 2020 President Paul Kagame approved a draft law to establish RSA to support and coordinate Rwanda’s research programs in space science and technology, in addition to designing, building and launching satellites.
Ingabire noted that from July 2020, Rwanda will join other African countries that feature space agencies, including South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Angola, Zimbabwe and Kenya.
Despite not having this resource in place, Rwanda has retained focus on advancing its space technology investment.
In late November 2019, the country celebrated the arrival of Rwanda's first satellite, RWASAT-1, at the International Space Station.
Patrick Nyirishema, Director-General at the Rwanda Utility and Regulatory Authority (RURA), noted that with space technologies increasingly becoming cheaper, more African countries (including Rwanda) are now interested in launching satellites.
"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," said Nyirishema.
The journey to RSA began in 2017 when the country’s defence ministry and RURA established a Space Working Group to coordinate efforts to establish a space program management office.
This subsequently metamorphosed into the RSA.
The ICT and Innovation Ministry said the Agency will position Rwanda to actively participate in the global space economy which is valued at over US$400-billion out of which Africa is only contributing US$7-billion.
The Ministry added that every year, Rwanda spends about US$1-million to purchase and analyse satellite imagery. But with RSA, the country would possess capabilities to meet the market demand in addition to positioning itself as a proof-of-concept to provide similar services to other African countries.