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What Can ETRSS–01 Do for Ethiopia?

In today’s world of wireless communications, high definition televisions, and global access to the Internet, many people are unclear about what satellite technology means and the inherent advantages of satellite communications.

In this period of high technology, it is impossible to achieve sustainable development without technology. The use of satellite communications is one of them.

Space study is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the world. Mankind has always been eager to find out what is outside the world where we live. This curiosity has led humans to invent various tools over the years, including telescopes, space vehicles, and satellites.

The first fictional depiction of a satellite being launched into orbit was a short story by Edward Everett Hale, Moon. The idea surfaced again in Jules Verne’s The Begum’s Fortune in 1879.

The first manmade satellite was Sputnik 1, launched by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957 under the Sputnik program, with Sergei Korolev as chief designer. The unanticipated announcement of Sputnik 1’s success precipitated the Sputnik crisis in the United States and ignited the so-called Space Race within the Cold War.

From those days on, there has been fierce competition to develop the latest and greatest satellites by different countries to explore space.

In addition to space exploration, a ground observation of the earth we live in is done by satellites. Satellite can record a wide array of changes and movements on earth.

Satellites are used to monitor climate change, predict weather forecasts, and provide protection. These are the kinds of capabilities Ethiopia is acquiring with the launch of ETRSS-01, a seven-kilo gram satellite that was launched from China this week.

The Launch was a historic moment for Ethiopia. The satellite named the “Ethiopian Remote Sensing Satellite – 01” (ETRSS-01) is anticipated to provide information on agriculture, mining, environment, climate protection, and geology, among other things.

ETRSS-01 satellite was developed by the Chinese along with many Ethiopian experts who have joined forces during the design and building process. Reportedly, a total of 210 million US dollar was spent on the satellite.

The satellite’s information system is built at Entoto on the periphery of Addis Ababa, whereby its inception and control are done entirely by Ethiopian space specialists.

The Ethiopia government has received $10 million in funding from various bodies and has allocated additional resources for the success of the launch.

“Even though the launching happened from China, its controller and the commander is Ethiopia,” Ethiopia Science and Technology Institute Director-General, Dr. Solomon Belay told reporters.

While many questions about the importance of space research in a developing country like Ethiopia, Dr. Solomon says: “Space is a question of survivability for a country like Ethiopia, and not a luxury”. “In an age where global climate threatens the world, it is wise to get information before any natural disaster strikes,” he added.

“The satellite can predict conditions before a disaster actually happens and In a country where agriculture is the primary means of economy, the satellite will provide information on where the productive and fertile areas are and how there will be a change of climate across many areas,” the Director-General emphasized.

According to Mr. Solomon, by using the information collected from the satellite, one can easily identify productive areas and know the exact amount of production.

“With the growing expansion of industries and Industrial Parks, it is important that the government know the suitable area of constructing the parks. Also, a satellite is best option to count our population, these are how we can save human as well as capital resources,” Solomon noted when explaining the importance of ETRSS-01.

During his statement, the Director-General also talked about how the satellite can only be used for peaceful purposes. “In principle, the space is used for peaceful activity and it is not used for warfare.” As a member of the International Space Station, the country has to live by its principles and away from acting in an unguided way.

Before the Launching of The Ethiopian Remote Sensing Satellite – 01 (ETRSS-01), Ethiopia used to get information from satellites owned by other countries.

According to a study made five years ago, Ethiopia spends a yearly amount of 250 million ETB to buy satellite information.

As urbanization and investment increases, so does the importance of the information. Therefore, satellite inclusion is expected to reduce these costs.

In this regard, the Director-General of Ethiopian Science and Technology Institute is optimistic that Ethiopia can start big business in selling satellite information to other countries that do not have satellite systems.

“We sell information when needed. It is also possible to exchange information with countries that have advanced technologies,” he said.

African countries like Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria, and Egypt have made some headway in the use of such technology, including satellite Communication, while Ethiopia is considered a beginner in terms of using such technology.  

Most of the United Nations goals set to be achieved by 2030 include space technology which shows that the sector should not be neglected.

Once launched, the satellite will be used for a minimum of three to four years, but more likely longer than that. In general, satellites have a useful life of 5-15 years.

With the launch of ETRSS–01, many hope Ethiopia will be on the way to achieve the objectives of its Growth and Transformation Plan II (GTPII).

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