Angola eyes big benefits from AngoSat-1 launch

Launch of communications satellite from Kazakh facility puts sub-Saharan African country on the map in the space race.

    The satellite was launched on Tuesday from the Baikonur facility in Kazakhstan [YouTube/Rosmocos]
    The satellite was launched on Tuesday from the Baikonur facility in Kazakhstan [YouTube/Rosmocos]

    Angola now has its first satellite in space, with the launch of AngoSat-1 from the Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan.

    The communications satellite, which went into operation on Tuesday, is a partnership between Angola and Russia.

    The joint project commenced in 2009 and has cost about $300m, according to Angola's government.

    The lifespan of AngoSat-1 is expected to be about 15 years, and Angola will be responsible for mission control during this period.

    The satellite will mean a lot more than just better reception for mobile phone users, officials say.

    According to Jose Carvalho da Rocha, Angola's minister of telecommunications and information technologies, AngoSat-1 will play a crucial role in the proliferation of telemedicine, a way of providing clinical care from a distance using telecommunications.

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    Telemedicine is especially important for places that are not located close to hospitals, or places that are hard to reach for medical professionals.

    Earlier this year, Angola made public its long-term plan for its space programme, which envisages a steady expansion in the coming years.

    With Tuesday's launch, Angola becomes one of the few sub-Saharan African countries in space.

    Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa already have several satellites in orbit, going further than basic telecommunications.

    South Africa uses its spacecraft to collect data on potential environmental disasters such as flooding and fires.

    Ghana uses the cubesat, a small satellite built by the All Nations University, to monitor its coastline and for educational purposes.

    Meanwhile, Nigeria has not only used its satellites to monitor elections, but even to track the movements of Boko Haram, the armed group responsible for deadly attacks in the country's northeast.

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    However, Nigeria wants to go even further.

    By 2030, it hopes to put its first astronaut in space, a plan that might be within reach, with private companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin opening up space in the coming years even for countries that might not have massive budgets to explore space.

    Other sub-Saharan countries are also looking skywards.

    Ethiopia and Kenya have their own space programmes, and, in 2016, the African Union set out an African Space Policy and Strategy.

    With that framework, the African Union hopes to work towards a resilient space programme that benefits the whole continent in the coming decades.

    However, for Angola, the launch of AngoSat-1 is a first step that not only puts the country on the map in the space race, but also provides tangible quality-of-life improvements for people living in the country.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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