Space Projects In The African Space Industry To Look Out For In 2020

As humans advance further into the age of space and expand outside the confines of the planet beyond wildest imaginations, there is a push and increase in the number of nations advancing or solidifying their positions in the global community by consolidating their intentions of exploring the outer space through technological programs.

2019 Might Be The Best Year So Far For The African Space Industry.

There is often the question of why nations embark on space programs and what exponential benefits emanate from such ventures, aside matching the competition of nations for bragging rights. The validation of the answer to that question is the plethora of accomplishments of countries through their space programs which include satellites developments and launching capabilities, and its affiliated activities. Space programs make for recognition in the community of nations, affirm and offer solutions to societal issues and give a level of technology independence.

Since the 1960s, African nations have had the vision of exploring the outer space, and have gone ahead to engage in various activities to achieve this, including the establishment of space projects and programs, which to an extent, have yielded commendable results and given substance to the space industry in Africa.

In the past decade, there has been a continuous offshoot of space projects on the continent from different quarters, including national governments, co-regional partnerships; public and private universities and research institutions.

However, it is worthy of note that African space projects mainly focus on satellite projects, ground stations and related activities, as evident in the goals and objectives of their space missions, unlike the rest of the world, whose space programs and projects target the exploration of planetary and celestial bodies, space mining and tourism.

2019 is momentous to Africa space ecosystem as it saw the realisation of national space objectives. Here are projects set for 2020 that will have immediate and future benefits as well as shapen the industry.

Space Projects for 2020

Space projects and programs that will shape the African space industry in 2020 include:

Square Kilometre Array (SKA

SKA Telescope 3000 Miles Long
SKA Telescope 3000 Miles Long

First among major space projects in Africa for 2020 is the Square Kilometre Array(SKA) project, an intergovernmental radio telescope project with proposed locations in Australia and South Africa. Conceived in the 1990s, and further developed and designed by the late-2010s, when built, would have a total collecting area of approximately one square kilometre sometime in the 2020s. It would operate over a wide range of frequencies, and its size would make it 50 times more sensitive than any other radio instrument. It would require very high-performance central computing engines and long-haul links.

With initial construction contracts slated to begin in 2020, and construction between 2024-2030, so far, the Square Kilometre array project has contributed immensely to the growth of the space ecosystem in South Africa and the continent at large. With multi-stream projects and programmes affiliated with the project, including the KAT-7, a proof-of-concept radio telescope, and MeerKAT, the precursor to the SKA, the project through SARAO has funded over 1,000 students, since 2005, to study science and engineering – from graduate degrees to post-doctoral studies. Out of the over 1,000 students, who have received study grants, 802 are from South Africa, 176 are from other African countries, and 76 are from SKA partner countries, including Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia. The projects have also graduated electrician, fitters and other from its technical centre in South Africa with more expected in the coming year. 

Global Monitoring for Environment and Security and Africa (GMES & Africa) Project

The signing ceremony of cooperation arrangement between the AUC and EC. Image Source: GMES & Africa

The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security and Africa (GMES & Africa) Support Programme is the result of the long-standing cooperation between Africa and Europe in the area of space science & technology, which is one of the key priorities of the long-term EU-Africa Joint Strategy. The GMES & Africa Support Programme is administered by the African Union Commission through the Human Resource, Science and Technology (HRST) Commission. The pan-African programme aims at improving the capacity of African policy-makers, planners, scientists, businessmen and private citizens to design, implement, and monitor national, regional and continental policies, and to promote sustainable management of natural resources through the use of earth observation data and derived information.

With outstanding success on the project in 2019, we are expecting profound progress on the implementation of the program across 45 countries in 2020.

How Is GMES & Africa Using Earth Observation To Improve The Lives Of African People? (Part One)
How Is GMES & Africa Using Earth Observation To Improve The Lives Of African People? (Part Two)

African Space Agency

Third African Space Stakeholders Dialogue begins in Dakar Senegal
Third African Space Stakeholders Dialogue begins in Dakar Senegal

In February 2019, the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union which held at the African Union Headquarter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia endorsed Egypt as the host of the African Space Agency, an endorsement which came with a financial donation of USD 10 million. Several high-level meetings were held throughout the year to develop strategies and further implementation of the African space policy and it is expected that in 2020, the agency will be fully operational.

Download African Space Policy
Download African Space Strategy

Xinabox XK92 xChips and 200 modular xchips and a new bridge for the BBC Micro: bit computer projects.

XinaBox BBC Micro:bit kit
XK05 micro:bit IoT Kit

Two projects from XinaBox (pronounced as X-in-a-box), a modular electronics and IoT development and STEM education partner based in Cape Town, which will shapen the industry in 2020 are the X92 xChips payload and product expansion to 200 modular xchips due for release in 2020. 

According to reports, XK92 xChips– Xinabox’s latest kit developed for the ISS mission and concurrent data analysis on Earth by student teams will be part of the 14 out of 17 experiments by partner schools of Quest for Space Program which will be launched on 7 February to International Space Station on board a Northrop Grumman NG-13 Launch Vehicle on a resupply mission from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia.

In the launch, Xinabox’s experiment will serve as a pilot, to demonstrate the cutting-edge technology of the XK92 xChips. Onboard the ISS, the XinaBox payload will collect various datasets ranging from temperature to humidity, pressure, etc. These datasets will be stored in an SD card and assessed once the experiments return to Earth after some weeks aboard a returning SpaceX rocket from the ISS.

On the other hand, the 200 modular xchips, which forms part of the company’s product expansion, allows for seamless integration with single board computers (SBC), embedded systems and other hardware programming environments. The xchips will serve several growing user segments and also complement the existing product line.

XinaBox projects for 2020 also include the launching a new bridge for the BBC Micro:bit computer, the first to give it convenient Wi-Fi functionality, which makes it possible, for the first time, for millions of children globally, who already have a Micro:bit, to connect it to the cloud and learn about data science and IoT.

These projects will not only inject a pipeline of skilled capacities into the African Space industry or make it a contender in the global space industry; it will increase the exportation of African-designed and developed space components in the international market and boost industry economy.

Tunisia’s Challenge One

Tunisian Company Signs Deal With Russian Companies To Launch 30 Satellites by 2023
Tunisian Company Signs Deal With Russian Companies To Launch 30 Satellites by 2023

According to projections, space-faring nations in Africa will increase to 17 by 2024. Tunisia has set out to become one of these with the launch of its first satellite, Challenge One, by July 2020.

The communication satellite designed by Telenet, a Tunisian company, will be launched from the Baikonur base in south-central Kazakhstan aboard the Russian Soyuz-2.1 as stated in a contract the company signed with the Russian operator of commercial launches of Soyuz-2 rockets, GK Launch Services.

The Challenge One satellites, as a communication satellite, will relay and amplify radio telecommunications signals and operation in the country.

The satellite will also herald the launch of a constellation of 30 satellites by 2023 as results of its in-orbit operation will be used for building the constellation, bringing about economic and technological advancement.

Egypt’s MisrSat-II space projects

Egypt Commences Implementation Phase Of China-funded MisrSat II Satellite And AIT Centre
Photo Credit: Xinhua/Li Binian/IANS

Egypt and China, earlier in the year, signed a  USD 72 million grant agreement for the assembly equipment and staff training for the  MisrSat-II project. The satellite will be developed through cooperative and joint work between Chinese and Egyptian teams who work in parallel and will be used to transmit satellite imagery to aid agricultural and urban planning, meteorological forecasting, and promote more effective natural disaster aid responses.

The project also includes an Assembly, Integration and Testing (AIT) centre in Egypt, expected to be fully established by 2020, where assembly and integration of the satellite will be done as well as a ground control station and a ground application system to support the operation of the satellite.

Ethiopia’s MAIT project

Ethiopian Prime Minister visits China Academy of Space Technology
Ethiopian Prime Minister visits China Academy of Space Technology

The African space industry is set for a major boost in the area of satellite manufacturing, assembly, integration and testing with the construction of Ethiopia’s satellite manufacturing, assembly, integration and testing (MAIT) facilities which will commence  January 2020. The facilities which will be built by ArianeGroup, a French company in Addis Ababa will be completed by late 2022.

The project supported the European Investment Bank in a tripartite agreement with the Ethiopian government and ArianeGroup, will have Space Engineering Research and Development Directorate (SERDD), a division under the ESSTI, design, develop and manufacture highly accurate, precise, portable, easily maintainable, replaceable, and automated MAIT equipment that may not only be used for aerospace industry but also other manufacturing industries, as well as assume the role of managing the MAIT centre and maximizing its capacity in developing indigenous satellite systems and components.

Along with the MAIT centre is the construction of a mechanical and electrical laboratory, which will aid in the research and development of new technologies in the aerospace field.

At its completion, the projects will be beneficial to Ethiopia and the entire East African space sector as more human capacities will emerge from the technology and knowledge transfer facilitated by the involvement of Ethiopian and expatriates in the project. Furthermore, the centre will serve for developing indigenous satellite systems and components in the region. Presently, there are only two AIT centres in Africa belong to Algeria and South Africa.

AngoSat-2

AngoSat is 50 per cent completed
AngoSat-2
Photo credit: GGPEN

The Angosat program is Angolan satellite projects. The entire project is valued at USD 320 million includes the cost of three communication satellites: the inoperational Angosat-1, Angodat-2 and Angosat-3, which are currently under construction.

As a replacement for the failed Angosat-1, the cost for constructing the Angosat-2  is partly covered by a USD 121 million insurance payout from the lost AngoSat-1, while the rest will be paid by the Russian government, which will also procure the mission’s launch service. AngoSat-2  would be completed before the end of the year. On the other hand, Angosat-3 project awarded to French satellite manufacturing company, Airbus, is still very much in its early phase of construction. the satellite construction is expected to last for 36 months.

However, what is what noting is the impact these satellites will have on the industry, especially in Angola. Inline with the construction of the satellites, the Angolan government and its relevant ministry reached a partnership with the Russian government and Airbus for the training Angolan engineers in different areas of space science and technology. The training at its various levels will churn out a generation of skilled and expert capacities that will contribute to the development of the state by offering solutions to challenges confronting the state.

Furthermore, as a communication satellite, Angosat-2 is programmed with frequencies and high-speed, high-quality broadband Internet alongside previously scheduled frequencies., a makeup that will bolster communication in Southwestern Africa country, and lessen its independence on foreign satellite services providers such Eutelsat and RSCC.

African Development Satellite Initiative (AfDev-Sat)

Egypt To Launch A Pan-African Satellite Development Initiative On Wednesday
Egypt’s Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Dr Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, presenting AfDev-Sat at TICAD7 in Japan. Photo Credit: Senior Shimhanda

The African Development Satellite Initiative, an initiative by the Egyptian Space Agency is a major space project that will shape the industry in 2020. The initiative is a supposed Pan-African project that seeks to create a platform for African countries to collaborate in the area of space technology to respond to domestic, regional and continental needs. The initiative is currently planning on launching an Earth Observation satellite which will tackle issues related to climate change and other climate variables on the continent.

MIR-SAT1

Mauritius Research and Innovation Council (Satellite Team, Executive Director & Chairman), MARS and JAXA Engineers.

In June 2018 during a side event at UNISPACE+50, a research team from the Mauritius Research and Innovation Council made a record for being the winner of the third round of KiboCube programme by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

The satellite which is being developed with the help of AAC Clyde Space has gone through the assembly and integration testing phase and was scheduled to be delivered to JAXA by February 2020. The satellite is expected to be launched before the end of the year.

Growth in NewSpace Ecosystem

There is a rapid increase in the number of NewSpace companies in Africa and we are expecting to see the rise of new startups while the already existing ones reach new milestones. More companies are going to raise new investments this year and we are looking forward to a few acquisitions.