The Ivorian nanosatellite will help monitor environmental damage and illegal activities and contribute to development planning.
The Ivory Coast announced its intention to launch its first satellite within the next two years. A team of scientists specializing in astrophysics and geology explain to The Conversation Africa the potential benefits of this breakthrough and how the country plans to realize its ambitions in the space sector.
What type of satellite does Côte d'Ivoire plan to launch?
YAM-SAT-CI 01 will be a nanosatellite for Earth observation. A nanosatellite is a small satellite, weighing between 1kg to 10kg. It will be equipped with a camera capable of providing images of the country's coast, forests, natural parks and urban areas.
The construction of the satellite is entirely Ivorian. It was entrusted to Universal Constructors Associated, a private Ivorian company promoting scientific and technological development, in partnership with the Institut National Polytechnique Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Yamoussoukro.
This is the first step towards more sophisticated satellites and sensors that have many applications. For example, they can detect, monitor and map threats to national security, illegal immigration, Deforestation, illegal gold mining activities, soil moisture and water tanks. They can help minimize the consequences of floods or droughts.
In Côte d'Ivoire, such a satellite could support government efforts to regulate artisanal mining and combat illegal activities and the degradation of the environment.
These applications are based on sophisticated image processing algorithms, including the use of artificial intelligence.
What are the other potential benefits and spillovers?
Earth observation provides data for agriculture, disaster management and urban planning. The satellite supports a variety of applications, including health monitoring, vegetation monitoring, water resources mapping, and analysis of urban growth patterns.
Apart from the direct benefits of technology, it contributes to the scientific and economic development of the nation.
The project to build and launch a satellite is generally accompanied by capacity building in many sectors related to the space industry. It involves engineers and scientists to develop sensors and the ground segment to track and communicate with the satellite.
Other important benefits of these projects include wider use of space technology. The launch of a satellite can lead to increased use of Earth observation data and products, provided by the many satellites in orbit around our planet.
Who will be involved in this project?
The academic and private sectors all have a role to play in this scientific, technical and political adventure.
For example, the Institut National Polytechnique Félix Houphouet-Boigny has already planned to set up new courses in the field of space and aeronautics. A new generation of young engineers will directly benefit. Furthermore, an association Ivorian Institute of Astronomy was launched. Its outreach activities aimed at promoting astronomy and space science to the general public will increase the population's scientific culture. It could inspire the younger generation to pursue scientific careers.
Finally, the Félix Houphouët-Boigny University has a laboratory specializing in Earth observation from space: the University Center for Research and Application in Remote Sensing. Its students can also contribute to the design, mission-related strategy and applications of Ivorian satellites.
What are other African countries doing in terms of space technology?
Le report on the space industry in 2022 from consulting firm Space in Africa says the value of the industry in Africa is expected to reach $22,64 billion in 2026, up from $19,49 billion in 2021. The report says African nations allocated 534,9, $2022 million to space programs in 523,2, up from $2021 million in XNUMX. These investments indicate that Africa is preparing for wider use of space technology to address various challenges which she faces.
For example, on April 23, 2023, Kenya launched its first satellite, called Taifa-1, with the help of SpaceX. The satellite is equipped with an optical camera and is expected to provide agricultural and environmental monitoring data for Kenya.
In 2021, Tunisia threw its first 100% Tunisian satellite. Zimbabwe, Uganda, Egypt and Angola have also launched satellites in the past 12 months. In April 2023, President Macky Sall announced the launch of the Senegalese Agency for Space Studies.
Egypt, the Nigeria and South Africa are the most advanced African countries on space issues. For example, ZACube, launched in December 2018, is a nanosatellite developed by the South African National Space Agency in collaboration with local universities. It focuses on the safety of maritime traffic in South African coastal waters.
The National Space Research and Development Agency of Nigeria was established in 1999. It has launched five satellites since 2003.
In December 2022, Nigeria and Rwanda became the first African countries to sign the Artemis Chords, a NASA-led framework that defines best practices for sustainable space exploration.
It is clear that more and more African countries are investing in space technologies.
The first step is to raise public awareness of space issues and the benefits of investing in space technologies. We need to start creating space-related training courses and promoting space science in African countries.
David Baratoux, Geologist, Research Institute for Development (IRD); Aziz Diaby Kassamba, Teacher and researcher in space physics, Félix Houphouët-Boigny University. Cocody, Ivory Coast; Marc Harris Yao Fortune, Teacher-researcher, astrophysicist , Félix Houphouët-Boigny University. Cocody, Ivory Coast; Marie Korsaga, Teacher-Researcher in physics chemistry, Joseph Ki-Zerbo Universityand Pankration Aka, Epistemologist, Historian of Science and Logician, Félix Houphouët-Boigny University. Cocody, Ivory Coast