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We have lift off!

We have lift off!

Following a morning of euphoria regarding the launch of the first Ethiopian satellite, a multi-spectral wide-rage microsatellite—ETRSS-1— Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) has announced on Friday that the initiative to have eyes in space was a dream of his which he said started pursuing some 12 years ago when he was an associate with Information Network Security Agency (INSA).

In the Oromo-Amhara Peace Conference that was held Friday at the Millennium Hall in Addis Ababa, the PM told the gathering that he is overjoyed with the fact that Ethiopia now has its eyes and ears in space in a manner of its first remote-sensing microsatellite, which hitched a ride to orbit today on the Chinese Long March 4B rocket (CZ-4B). According to Space in Africa, online African based space news site, the ETRSS-1 was launched into space as secondary payload on the CZ-4B rocket which carried primary load of “the CBERS 4A remote sensing satellite. CBERS 4A is the fifth China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite for the collection of global imagery for environmental, urban planning and agricultural applications.”

According to PM Abiy his proposal to establish a space science agency some years back was the second attempt he made to convince those in the power circle at the time, to take the leap but largely failed on deaf ears. Nevertheless, following his appointment as Minister of Science and Technology, Abiy told the gathering, that he was finally able to take his proposal one step forward by traveling to china and signing a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese company responsible for Friday’s launch. 

“Deputy PM Demeke Mekonnen, a retired high-ranking EPRDF officials Tefera Waliwa and Abadulla Gemeda deserve to get the credit for this success as they showed their unwavering support for the idea since a decade ago,” Abiy told the gathering, which was jointly organized by Amhara and Oromo prominent business people in capital. 

Largely funded by China to the tune of 6 million USD to its total cost of an estimated 7 million USD and weighing more than 72 kilograms, the historic launch occurred at 7: 02 AM Ethiopian Time in the presence of government officials inside the Entoto Space Observatory Facility, the regions lone space observatory.

“In History, every generation in Ethiopia has a first in technological advancements. From the first telephones in Ethiopia to the first television station, we have made leaps and many are witness to that. This is our time. We are #TheSpaceGeneration”, the Ethiopian Remote Sensing Satellite (ETRSS’s) official twitter account said in a statement.

The ETRSS-1 is to help monitor weather patterns resources and better forecast weather, among others, to help in agricultural planning, warning of future drought and forestry management.

For the nation of 100 million plus people, there will be a follow-up, when Ethiopia will continue with phase II of its space development next month in the capital when it focuses on “satellite manufacturing, assembly, integration and test facilities”, including the launch of 15 satellites within the next decade, according to the Minister of Innovation and Technology, Getahun Mekuria (PhD).

The African Union, recognizing the need for satellite for a slew of interests adopted a policy in 2017, highlighting space science and technology as a strategy to advance the economical prowess of the continent, which despite its shortcomings and still dependent on outside support to sustain its ambitions.

"This will be a foundation for our historic journey to prosperity," Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen said in preparation of the launch.

The Chinese media, in particular China Daily, called the launch, as how “China presented a space based gift to Ethiopia – the African nation’s first satellite that was designed and built by Chinese engineers”, signifying the East Africa’s growing influence within Ethiopia’s ambition.

Contributed by  Namin Ashenafi and Samuel Getachew