Rwanda’s ambition to launch two satellite constellations in the next three years has further highlighted the country’s plan to become a hub for the African space industry.
The Rwanda Space Agency (RSA) announced the development on Tuesday, citing that it filed a request to acquire two satellite constellations from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The two fleets of craft totals 327,320 satellites.
A satellite constellation is a group of satellites working together as a system. Unlike a single satellite, a constellation can provide permanent global or near global coverage.
They are all cube satellites, making the process of approval even shorter. Three years at the maximum, sources from the agency confirmed to The New Times on Thursday.
The two constellations will join RwaSat-1, the country’s first-ever satellite launched in 2019.
“The application we filed to ITU is a normal process that every country which wants to launch satellite,” said Francis Ngabo, the agency’s Chief Executive while appearing on the national television.
According to Ngabo, ITU’s standards and regulation requires that before any country launches a satellite, they must register the satellite with the regulator and send all technical parameters that are needed for the satellite to operate without interfering others or being interfered.
So this is a process that we started, he said.
“This is only the first step, and what is going to follow is that there is going to be a process of co-ordination.”
The latter, Ngabo explained, allows various countries with concerns of network interference to come together and be able to address the vice.
“This is to avoid anything that might happen and cause damage to the existing networks.”
The move comes at a time the development of the Rwandan Space Sector is still in its early stages, with a total of five to ten partnerships, according to the agency.
However, according to Ngabo, “It shows that Rwanda is ready to use space services for the socio development of the country and secondly it’s a signal that we are sending to the business sector or the space sector that we are ready for investment in the space sector, space communication and space services in general.”
He shared similar sentiments with various industry players who spoke to The New Times on Thursday.
For instance, Serge Tuyimbaze, Founder and Managing Director of Leapr Labs, thinks that tech innovators should leverage on the development to among others build Rwanda’s global economic competitiveness through the creation of new products and quality services.
Leapr Labs is a community of scientists and technologists seeking to create impact by translating scientific research into societal solutions.
Based on the current market trends, Tuyihimbaze projects that going forward space technology will be critical for new business and industries as well as high quality and sustainable jobs.
For Ineza Bonte, a software engineer, who also doubles as one of the organizers of the NASA space apps challenge, investing in the space industry is key to attract more industry players, especially the youth.
He decried that there is currently lack of awareness among the youth, mainly because the courses are not integrated in the education system.
“It is good news simply for us to see that the country has discovered the potential in the industry. It will hopefully encourage other young people because we currently have a shortage in this field.”