The Egyptian parliament is scheduled to discuss on Sunday a government-drafted law aimed at creating the country’s first space agency.
A 25-page report prepared by parliament's education and scientific research committee said the 16-article 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.
Gamal Shiha, the head of parliament's education and scientific research committee, told Ahram Online that 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 of Egypt," said Shiha.
To meet these objectives, Shiha says the agency will seek to attract domestic and foreign investments.
"It will also mobilise Egyptian scientists and researchers in local, Arab and foreign universities and institutes to conduct research on space technology and step up cooperation with their Arab and foreign colleagues for the sake of building Egypt's capabilities in this vital area," said Shiha.
"The agency will be also entrusted with tapping all the potential necessary for Egypt to manufacture space technology."
The report said a higher council of the ESA will be mandated with formulating the agency's policies and supervising the implementation of its activities.
"This council will have the president of the republic as head, and will include the prime minister and the ministers of defence, telecommunications, finance, scientific research, and military production as members," said the report.
Other council members will include the chief of General Intelligence, the chairman of the Arab Organisation for Industrialisation, and the executive head of the agency.
Article eight states that members of ESA's executive board will be named by the president.
"They will include prime minister as head, the two ministers of scientific research and telecommunications, and the ESA's executive head as members," according to the article, which adds that the board will have to meet once a month.
MP Gamal Shiha said the creation of the Egyptian Space Agency does not mean that Egypt's space programme will start from scratch.
"Egypt's experience in the area of space technology goes back to the early 1960s, when it was able to develop fruitful contacts in this area with East Germany as well as countries in Asia and Latin America," said Shiha, adding that "with the help of German scientists, Egypt was able to build an ambitious rocket progamme."
"However, for various reasons, this programme had slowed down, though it was able to put a good foundation for the manufacturing of rockets and their components in Egypt," said Shiha.
The report said that "with Egypt launching a media satellite in 1998 (the NileSat), it decided to form a council for space technology and sciences. In 1999, the report added, the Egyptian space programme, in the form of the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology, took charge of implementing different research projects.
"In 2000, the first Egyptian space programme was forged to design, manufacture and launch the country's first satellite for peaceful objectives," said the report.
"In 2007, Egypt, in collaboration with the Ukraine, was able to launch its first satellite for scientific research," said the report, adding that "unfortunately in 2010 Egypt lost control of this satellite (SAT1) because Egyptian engineers who were responsible for operating it decide to leave in favour of building space technology programmes in some Arab countries."
The report said in addition to the above, the National Remote-Sensing Organisation was created in 1973 to play a role in developing Egypt's space technology capabilities.
"For the above reasons," said Shiha, "we can say that Egypt has been able to gain a reasonable basis of space and satellite technology that we can build on to help the Egyptian Space Agency do its job in a quick and confident way."
The report, which was approved by the education and scientific research committee in November and will be discussed in a plenary meeting in parliament on Sunday, also reviewed the successful experiences of some countries such as China and India in the area of space technology.
"Some other countries like South Africa, Algeria and Saudi Arabia were also able to achieve notable progress in this field," said the report.
The report also states that Egypt is currently in communication with other African countries to set up an African space agency based in Cairo.
"This made the creation of the Egyptian Space Agency a necessity," said the report, adding that "Egypt has also made good contacts with Germany to help Egyptian scientists receive training in the area of space technology."
"Egypt and Germany will sign a protocol in the area of training Egyptians in space, satellite and aviation technology," said the report.
Shiha said the law on the Egyptian Space Agency was revised in constitutional and legal terms by the State Council.
"Articles 23 and 31 state that the government should allocate one percent of the GDP to spending on scientific research, information technology and the sponsoring of inventors and researchers, and that cyber technology should be reinforced to become an integral part of the country's national security and economy," said Shiha.