Via Satellite
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With Angosat 1 a New African Country Reaches Space

Last December 26, Angola launched its first satellite, a communications satellite called Angosat 1. The launch of the satellite is the first most visible initiative of the Angolan Space Strategy 2016-2025, published in May 2017. This document highlights Angosat 1 as one of the main reasons for structuring Angolan’s space ambitions through a space strategy, a goal established as early as 2008, when a government resolution established the need to set up a satellite telecoms infrastructure in the country. Said resolution is also very clear in stating that the Angosat project covers not only the production, launch and operation of the satellite, but also the creation of national capability in human resources and infrastructure in the field of outer space.

Since then, several national plans and strategies continued to stress the central role of the Angosat. The National Development Plan 2013-2017 mentioned the Angosat, and so did the White Book on ICT from 2011, which once again highlighted the need to develop national industries and know-how in space technology, an objective boosted by the Angosat. This document also outlined, in a preliminary manner, the National Space Program and its main objectives. Later, in 2013, Angola set up the Interministerial Commission for the General Coordination of the National Space Program and the Angolan National Office for Space Affairs. The Interministerial Commission was mandated with accompanying the Angosat project and study the need for a space agency in the country, among other responsibilities. The Space Office, on its turn, was mandated with pursuing strategic studies aimed at establishing cooperation agreements in the space field, among other tasks.

The space strategy was thus the natural next step in the country’s space ambitions. By means of highlighting the benefits brought by outer space in the sustainable development of Angola, the document establishes its Vision 2025: Angola as a country with space infrastructures, with scientific and technological capabilities in this field, which takes advantage of space for its socio-economic development — placing space at the service of its citizens, the industry and the State — and that assumes a leadership and cooperation role at the regional and international levels.

The National Space Strategy sets up five strategic pillars: space infrastructure, capacity-building and promotion, industry and technology, international positioning, and organization and cooperation. Each of them contains several objectives and proposed strategies. For instance, the first strategic pillar (space infrastructure) covers the Angosat 1 and potential future satcoms, but not only that: a program of earth observation and the possibility of launching EO satellites and/or installing terrestrial stations is also mentioned. In addition, the exploitation of the pre-allotted orbital slots (-24.80 and -36.10, in accordance with ITU Regulations 30/30A and 30B, respectively) is also highlighted. The second pillar (capacity-building and promotion) refers, among other points, the Angolan Centre for Space Studies and capacity-building through the construction and operation of small sats. The third pillar (industry and technology) stresses the importance of developing a private space sector, as well as of approving a legal framework for this purpose. More cooperation with the African Union (due to the African Space Policy and Strategy approved in 2016) is also one of the central points covered by the Angolan Space Strategy. The Angolan space organizational structure is also proposed, covering a Space Agency, the National Centre for the Uptake and Processing of Satellite Images (which is a scientific institution under the Ministry of Science and Technology tasked with promoting the uptake, monitoring and processing of satellite images), INACOM (the telecoms authority under the Ministry of Telecommunications and Technology and responsible for the management of spectrum and orbital slots), and Infrasat (a company tasked with managing the satellite communication infrastructures of the country, which is a former business unit of public company Angola Telecom and the incorporation of which was approved in July 2017 by Presidential Decree). It is important to stress that the space strategy considers that the success of the country’s space endeavors is also dependent upon a dynamic public business sector in the field of satellite networks.

All in all, the space strategy highlights the first three priority space projects for the country: the Angosat 1, the Angolan Centre for Space Studies, and the creation of a space agency.

The Angosat 1 is, therefore, the first priority project of the space strategy executed by Angola. Developed under three contracts (covering the construction of the satellite, the construction of the ground segment, and the use of the orbital slot), the satellite was developed and financed through Russia, built by the Russian company RKK Energiya, and cost around $327 million.

Launched from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Angosata 1 is at orbital slot 14.5 east, has 16 transponders in C-band and six in Ku-band, has a guaranteed life span in orbit of 15 years, and can cover not only Angola, but also Africa and part of Europe (with a footprint from South Africa to Italy). Despite having lost contact shortly after launch, communication was resumed later, on December 28. It is important to note that it is expected that the satellite will have a 99.2 percent of its capacity used, with 40 percent of the satellite capacity already assigned to operators, 10 percent to national security and defense services, and another 10 percent to social initiatives (such as in the sectors of education, health, and small businesses). The investment is expected to be recouped in about two years.

The satellite control center is located in Funda, near Luanda (currently with around 50 workers) and there are two tracking facilities, one in Angola and another one in Russia, thus allowing Russian intervention whenever necessary and whilst Angola builds capacity in this field.

Angosat 1 is thus a first step in the path of Angola in outer space, bringing the country closer to the goal of making Angola an operator and supplier of space technology, products and services, as stated in the Angolan Space Strategy. VS