Space Technology in other Industrializing Countries—I

In addition to scrutinizing the Indian and Brazilian space agendas, we shall further succinctly assess how other industrializing economies have co-opted space-based technology to accelerate national development. The scrutiny here shall delve to a relatively shallower extent than the previously addressed two case studies.  The objectives, acquisition, assimilation, evolution, and applications of space technology by these representative nations will broadly comprise our targets of interest.


  •  Algeria

The Algerian space agency (ASAL) was established in January 2002. Its main objectives are to utilize space for economic, social-cultural development and strengthen national security.  The Algerian space program identifies technical expertise mastery, industrial capacity development and addressing national development needs as the main aspects of emphasis. Through transfer of space technology from Europe, Algeria was able to venture into the space arena. The experiences gained in the offshore development of its first satellite ALSAT-1 resulted in the construction of domestic spacecraft design, test and integration facilities. The successful launch of ALSAT-1 in 2002 was followed by the launch of the European designed ALSAT-2A in 2010 by an Indian launch vehicle. Algeria has gained substantial expertise and is presently developing its 3rd satellite ALSAT-2B domestically. Space Technology is utilized in earth science, environment monitoring, agriculture, urban planning, water resources management, disaster management, geology etc.

  •  Egypt

Space activities in Egypt are spearheaded by the National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences (NARSS) which is an off-shoot of the Remote Sensing Center, established in 1971 as a joint American-Egyptian project. Relying on technology transfer from Ukraine, the first Egyptian earth observation satellite (EgyptSat-1) was launched in April 2007. Unfortunately, communication and control of the satellite was lost in July 2010. The Egyptian space program aims to inaugurate and build domestic technical expertise and industrial infrastructure; facilitate scientific research and high technology, and; address national development needs. Akin to other sectors of the Egyptian economy, the recent political uncertainties have negatively impacted progress in Egyptian space technology ambitions.

  • Nigeria

The Nigerian space agency referred to as National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) is responsible for the country’s space activities. It was officially inaugurated in August 2001 and is overseen by the National Council on Space Science Technology. NASRDA’s objectives in space technology are to build an indigenous skills capacity; develop supporting industrial infrastructure, and; utilize space technology for socioeconomic development to enhance the citizenry’s quality of life. To date, Nigeria has acquired a total of 5 satellites via turn-key contracts. Three of these satellites are earth observation platforms acquired from the United Kingdom—NIGERIASAT-1, NIGERIASAT-2, NIGERIASAT-X. The remaining two satellites; NIGCOMSAT-1 and NIGCOMSAT-1R are communication platforms acquired from China and managed by the specially constituted Nigerian Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT) company limited. NIGCOMSAT-1R is a free replacement of the NIGCOMSAT-1 that failed in orbit in November 2008.  During the development of NIGERIASAT-X, Nigerian engineers and scientists benefited through a technology transfer and training arrangement. Space-based technology is applied in land and water resources management, mapping, urban planning, television broadcast, telecommunications and so on.

  •  South Africa

Space activities in South Africa began in the 1980’s with the development of a military oriented launch vehicle and an earth observation satellite. This program was however terminated in the mid 1990’s following the end of apartheid. The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) was subsequently established in December 2009 to consolidate and spearhead space activities in the country. SANSA’s objective is to enhance economic growth and sustainable development in order to improve South Africans’ quality of life. South Africa possesses a relatively sophisticated indigenous capacity to formulate, fabricate and implement earth observation satellite missions. It launched its first indigenously developed satellite called SUNSAT in 1999 aboard an American launch vehicle. A second satellite christened SUMBANDILA was launched aboard a Russian launch vehicle in 2009.  Moreover, South Africa hosts the largest single telescope in the southern hemisphere and was recently selected to co-host (with Australia) the most powerful radio telescope ever built—Square Kilometer Array (SKA). Moreover, a number of South African universities are engaged in executing small satellites programs. Space technology in South Africa is applied in areas such as scientific research, disaster monitoring, land-use and natural resources management, urban planning, agriculture etc.

  • Indonesia

The National Aeronautics and Space Agency (LAPAN) was established in Indonesia in 1963 to foster space technology and improve the quality of life of the people. LAPAN has carried out research in areas such as launch vehicles, satellites and space science. Indonesia’s first telecommunication satellites— PALAPA-A1 and A2  were launched in 1976 and 1977 respectively after being developed in the United States. Indigenous satellite development capabilities were initiated with the development of the LAPAN-A1, A2 and A3 satellite series with technology transfer from Berlin Technical University. Indonesia has similarly embarked on the development of domestic launch vehicle through collaborative schemes with Russia and Ukraine. A notable indigenous space technology technical capacity and research laboratories presently exists in the country. Space technology applications include upper atmosphere scientific research, land-use monitoring, space science, meteorology, climate monitoring, coastal and marine resources management, environment monitoring, disaster mitigation etc.

  • Malaysia

The fledgling Malaysian National Space Agency (ANGKASA) established in 2002 uncharacteristically prioritized manned spaceflight through the Angkasawan program. The first Malaysian astronaut visited the International Space Station in 2007 courtesy of collaboration with the Russian Federation. The agency pursued this objective purely for national pride and to inspire young Malaysians to embrace science and technology.  The first Malaysian satellite—Tiung SAT was developed through a technology transfer partnership with UK’s Surrey Satellite Technology and launched in 2000. Since 2006, Malaysia has procured a series of commercial telecommunication satellites constituting the MEASAT network.  Malaysia indigenously developed the RazakSAT earth-observation satellite through a technology transfer program with South Korea, which was placed in orbit by an American rocket in 2009. Malaysia utilizes space technology in coastal-marine monitoring, water sources monitoring, land-use monitoring, urban planning, agricultural planning, navigation, space science research etc.

4 thoughts on “Space Technology in other Industrializing Countries—I

  1. A well written and balanced article. We now look forward to an article focusing on specifically African space research activities.

    I also notice that Turkey was omitted from this list even though they have a Space program, have launched and have even promoted development and launch of nano-sats for educational purposes. additionally, they are now collaborating with African countries such as Republic of Sudan and possibly Kenya under a policy of developing broad-based cooperation and business relations with the continent.

  2. This is well written and balanced article. We now look forward to an article focusing on specifically African space research activities.

    I also notice that China, and Turkey, which has a space program, a satellite in space and encourages even nano-sat launches for educational purposes was omitted from this list.

    Turkey is probably one of those rare countries that is willing to engage in full technology transfer for African countries as opposed to, lets say China, which tries to offer turn-key projects as a way of hoarding this know-how so that they can be the main financial beneficiaries for as long as possible.

  3. Allan & Kokooyo,
    Your comments are true and spot on. This is the first of two posts on “Space Technology in other Industrializing Countries.” So, Turkey and a couple of other additional illustrative cases of interest will be considered in the upcoming second installment on this topic. I appreciate your inputs.

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