ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
Ethiopia on Friday successfully launched the first-ever earth observatory satellite designed to collect and forward data required to modernize agriculture and mitigate drought.
There were smiles, hugs, and handshakes as Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonen, officials, and engineers at the Addis Ababa flight control station watched the satellite take off from China.
The jubilant crowd had gathered at the flight control station to witness the launching of the Chinese-built satellite, called ETRSS-I.
The news of the launch was greeted with a 12-gun salute. All state-run TV and radio stations provided extended live coverage.
Mekonen called the launch a milestone in progress in satellite technology.
“Today we have joined the world, and Ethiopia will launch a communication satellite next year," he said.
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Ethiopia has been plagued by periodic severe drought, often resulting in failed crops, livestock losses, and food shortages. According to official data, each year nearly 5 million people need food assistance.
The country’s agriculture is predominantly subsistence and is beset by environmental degradation and population growth.
Ahmedin Mohammed, deputy minister of innovation and technology, said at the occasion that the satellite would provide critical information needed to transform agriculture and manage the environment.
“The satellite, which we now own and operate, will provide us with data on meteorology, soil protection, and early drought warning, which would be vital to the development of the country,” he said.
As satellites are growing smaller and more affordable to buy and launch, to date 10 African countries in cooperation with developed countries have launched satellites into orbit.
Nigeria, South Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt have multipurpose satellites in space, and Kenya and Rwanda have also recently joined the African satellite club.