Ethiopia has launched its first satellite into space with China’s help

4 mins read

By By Yinka Adegoke
Quartz Africa

The Chinese rocket carrying the Ethiopian satellite takes off

Ethiopia launched its first observatory satellite into space on Friday (Dec. 20), according to local reports.

The 70 kilogram remote sensing satellite is to be used for agricultural, climate, mining and environmental observations, allowing the Horn of Africa to collect data and improve its ability to plan for changing weather patterns for example. The satellite will operate from space around 700 kilometers above the surface of earth.

The launch, which was originally scheduled for September, took place at 03.21hours GMT from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Xinzhou, Shanxi Province, China. The satellite was carried on board a Long March 4B rocket.

The rocket launched was aired live on Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation.

The Chinese satellite was designed and built at a cost of $8 million, with China paying around $6 million of the capsule’s price, according to the head of the Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute (ESSTI) at Addis Ababa University. Though it was launched from China its command and control center is based at the Entoto Observatory and Space Science Research Center (EORC) in Ethiopia, which is part of the Ethiopian Space, Science and Technology Institute (ESSTI).

In 2016, the Ethiopian government established ESSTI as a way to fully exploit space technologies for development purposes. In Jan. 2017, the ministry of science and technology announced it would launch a satellite into orbit in three to five years to improve its weather-monitoring capabilities. This followed the launch of a privately-funded, multi-million-dollar astronomical observatory in the Entoto hills overlooking Addis Ababa—a one-of-its-kind station that would allow Ethiopia to observe both the northern and southern hemisphere skies.

As satellites get smaller and cheaper, an increasing number of African nations are declaring their plans to look skyward. Countries including Kenya, Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, and Morocco have partnered to launch or launched their own programs to power their own scientific, technological and military ambitions. In January 2018, China gave $550 million to Nigeria for the purchase of two satellites from Chinese manufacturers both of which are slated for launch in the next year.

The African Union has also introduced an African space policy, which calls for the development of a continental outer-space program and the adoption of a framework to use satellite communication for economic progress. And as criticisms abound over the anomalous use of resources in the face of more pressing day-to-day concerns, the demand for satellite capacity is expected to double in the next five years in sub-Saharan Africa as climate change concerns grow and governments try to get ahead of the challenge.

However, China’s technological transfers to Africa have increasingly come under scrutiny, with experts warning these digital systems could be used for Beijing’s intelligence operations and electronic surveillance. While Addis Ababa says it would use the satellite to monitor crops and the weather, it could just as well be used for spying.


  1. ድል ይንገስ

    Ethiopia under the Noble and Graceful and Experienced Diplomat President Sale Worku zewde and Dynamic Nobel Laureate Dr. Abiye Ahmed and its people are flying high in the world like its satellite in the space with message of Peace to the world and progress in UNITY in Ethiopia and Prosperity opportunity for Foreign investors to bring rich dividend to its people.

  2. እናት ኢትዮጵያ እንኳን ደስ አለሽ። ቻይና ሠርታልን ያመጠቀችልን ሳይሆን እኛዉ ራሳችን ሠርተን አምጥቀን ቢሆን ኖሮ ደስታችን እጥፍ ድርብ በሆነ ነበር። ታላቅ ክብርም ይኖረዉ ነበር። ሁሉም ሰዉ የዘነጋዉ ነገር ግን በገንዘባችን ገዝተን እንጂ በጭንቅላታችን ሠርተን አለመሆኑን ነዉ።አለማፈራችን ግን ሌላ በሠራልን እንዲህ መፈንጠዛችን ነዉ። ራሰን ማዋረድ ይሉሃል ይህ ነዉ።

  3. Call it 2019, the year I chose to follow happenings in this great country. Tell me if there has been any other year more eventful? If any, more colorful? Or one, more bountiful?

  4. What an uplifting news for me!!! While I bask in the moment hearing the extra ordinary scientific advances achieved by our glorious daughters like Rediet bint Abebe, Lydia bint Gossa and Timnit bint Gebru and now this? All I can say again and again is The Good Lord Has Been Good To Me!!! Some friends called in 1991 and told that Mama Ethiopia, that gem of the colored was no more! She was dead!!! They told me ‘She is dead now!’ They said ‘You and we left her in one piece but she is dead and gone now!’ I then fell on my knees and cried out to The Almighty Our Creator, The Merciful!!! I cried ‘ Lord, why have You forsaken Your Hand Built Pride and Joy?’ God showed me how He Did Not Abandon Her!!! He Told Me ‘Your Mama Ethiopia Is Not Dead!!! She Is Still Alive!! She Is Badly Bruised and Bloodied But She Is Still Alive and Kicking!!’ Folks!!! God Has Been Good To Me and Mama, That Gem of The Colored!!! God Has Been Good To Me!!!

    And then again in 2016-2018 a friend called and told me that that time was for sure Our Mama Ethiopia Was On Her Last Life Support!!! She Would Be Dead In Days!!!! But I Told Them The Good Old Our Creator The Most Merciful Has Always Been Good To Me and Mama!!! He Shall Not Abandon Her Because He Has Been Good To Her!!!! Dear Countrymen/women!!! You know me by now that I have nothing but love for you!!! The space age has finally come to the land of Negash, Bilal and Mary Magdalene!!!! I Praise The Lord Our Creator For Blessing Me To Live So Long To See This Day!!! Now I am being overwhelmed by raw emotion!!!

    Ok Satoshi Kanazawa!!! In your bigoted face!!!! How About You Looking At the Moon and Eating Your Crow!!!!

  5. ጥሩ ውጤት አግኝቷል
    t’iru wit’ēti āginyitwali

    Dr. Abiye Ahmed one more great achievement . He is an Ambassador of Divine. Transforming and Transcending Ethiopia and Kissing the Sky for the benifit of Ethiopians on the ground. A true Medemer in practice.

    Ethiopia earns recognition in the space club of few members. Great.

  6. There are so many bright spots all over the African continent, countries where hope is suddenly springing back to life. This, seen here, happens to be just about the brightest; its background, just about the darkest. How may any country, however ill-advised, will decide to trash such a visionary? Great leaders are so scarce a commodity, they are always a rare find

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