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Egypt to launch first research satellite next year; Space Agency law approved

Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 25 Dec 2017
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Egypt's Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-aal (Photo: Ahram)
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Egypt’s Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar told MPs on Monday that with the help of Japan and China, Egypt will be able to launch its first satellite for scientific research in July 2018, meanwhile the House of Representatives approved in a following session a law to establish Egypt's first space agency. 

Abdel-Ghaffar revealed that 70 percent of the components of Egypt’s first satellite will be manufactured locally.

“The manufacturing will come in cooperation with China and is expected to be complete in the year 2020,” added Abdel-Ghaffar.

Abdel-Ghaffar, who showed MPs a photo and maquette of Egypt’s first satellite, said that “the dream has come true, and Egypt is about to join the world’s space club in just one year.”

The minister revealed that the satellite’s control unit and three-metre-wide camera will be locally manufactured after the country’s space agency law has been approved by parliament.

“The Egyptian Space Agency will be set up on Cairo-Suez Road and will be mainly devoted to manufacturing the components of the country’s first satellite and attracting all Egyptian space scientists to Egypt’s space and satellite city on Cairo Suez Road,” said Abdel-Ghaffar, adding that “China will help Egypt build this city and manufacture the satellite components.”

“This is a preliminary estimate, but we hope that in seven years Egypt’s space and satellite technology city will contribute at least 10 percent to the national income,” said Abdel-Ghaffar, adding that “in some countries like England, the space agency contributes 16 percent to GDP.”

Gamal Shiha, the head of parliament’s education committee, told MPs that “the decision to set up an Egyptian Space Agency comes too late.”

“But it is wonderful that it has come at last in order for Egypt to become a member of the world space club,” said Shiha, adding that “as a result, the committee members were keen to finish debating the law drafted by the government on establishing the country’s first space agency as soon as possible.”

The debate took place on Monday after parliament approved the 16-article law on establishing the Egyptian Space Agency.

Mohamed El-Sewedi, head of the pro-government Support Egypt parliamentary bloc, said “it is wonderful that the government will do its best to attract Egyptian space and satellite scientists and engineers to operate the country’s first space agency.”

“As far as I know, we have 118 Egyptian scientists in this field, but more than 100 left the country in past years to join space projects in other countries,” said El-Sewedi.

“Just like Egypt decided to join the nuclear club by establishing the first nuclear station at Dabaa, west of Alexandria, we are happy that Egypt has at last decided to join the world space club.”

Shiha said just like Pakistan and India were able to attract their native scientists working in the nuclear field to build local nuclear projects, Egypt will be also be able to join the world’s space and nuclear clubs very soon.

Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal said India’s famous nuclear scientist Abu Al-Kalam Azad has become a president of India.

“He was the third Muslim president of India and he did his country a big favour building its ambitious nuclear and rocket-manufacturing programme,” said Abdel-Aal

MP Ahmed Khalil, a member of the Salafist Nour Party, said Egypt’s decision to tap nuclear and space technology should be viewed as a response to US President Donald Trump’s threat not to give any economic or military assistance to countries that voted against his decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“I think the best response to these arrogant threats is to step up technological cooperation with countries like Japan and China to build locally-based industries and technologies,” said Khalil.

A 25-page report prepared by parliament's education and scientific research committee said the law aims to push Egypt forward in the vital area of space and satellite technology in a way that should serve the country's national security and development objectives.

"The agency will also seek to build Egypt's capabilities in the area of space technology and help the country autonomously launch satellites from Egyptian land," said the report.

The report – which was also prepared by parliament’s committees on telecommunications and information technology, defence and national security, the budget, and legislative and constitutional affairs – says that the Egyptian Space Agency (ESA) will be a Cairo-based public organisation that will have branches in different parts of Egypt.

"[The agency] will be affiliated with the president of the republic, having financial, administrative and technical independence to be able to do its job in a professional way," said the report.

The report also indicated that the agency will be mainly responsible for drawing up a national space technology programme within the next few years.

"It will be primarily focused on launching self-made satellites that should serve the development and national security objectives,” said the report. 

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