ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia launched its first satellite into space on Friday from a launchpad in China.
“This satellite, dubbed ETRSS-1, which is being launched from China, lays a foundation for our historic journey to prosperity our country has embarked on; and I would like to congratulate you all; and congratulation to all of us!” Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen said at the launch.
The event was televised live with a crowd of Chinese scientists, officials and experts who gathered at the satellite control center on the Entoto hill on the outskirts of Addis Ababa.
“This technological infrastructure is important even if it’s delayed,” Mekonnen added.
The Ethiopian Ministry of Defense welcomed the launch of the ERSS-1 multi-spectral remote sensing device, weighing approximately 72 kilos, which will orbit about 700 kilometers from Earth.
The ERSS-1, the 99th satellite to go into orbit in 2019, will be used to explore the use of Ethiopia’s agricultural and mineral resources as well as to make weather predictions.
The satellite is expected to save Ethiopia some $11 million a year, a figure the country is paying for data collected by satellites owned by other countries.
Ethiopian scientists from the Entoto Space Observatory – created in 2013 as a consortium of 32 public universities across the country – will control the satellite.
The remote sensing satellite cost some $8 million to create, mostly financed by China.
The Asian country has also invested in training African experts.
More than thirty scientists from Ethiopia, the economic power of East Africa and second-most populous country on the continent, have been working with Chinese experts to develop and launch the satellite into space.
Ethiopia joins other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya, in the space race to boost development goals and encourage scientific innovation.