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Tunisia dreams of having its own NASA

Two days after the launch of a 100% local satellite, Tunisia dreams of a national space agency. An ambitious or a foolish project?

On March 22, Tunisia created the event by launching its satellite into space, intended for the Internet of Things. The small country is the first in the Maghreb and the sixth in Africa to manufacture its own satellite. Because this is the specificity of “Challenge One”: it is a 100% Tunisian satellite. This was built by a team from TelNet, a national telecommunications group. Most of the engineers were trained in the country. The only non-Tunisian element: the place of take-off. The rocket took off from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

The opportunity for President Kaïs Saïed, whose country is currently going through both a political and social crisis, to experience a more positive moment. This crisis, precisely, slightly overshadowed the launch of the satellite, already marked by bad weather conditions which caused a delay in the launch date initially scheduled for March 20, a national holiday in Tunisia.

30 Tunisian satellites in 2023?

“Challenge One” should make it possible to collect data from connected devices in real time, such as thermometers, pollution sensors, location chips and humidity sensors. Beyond technological performance, which should make it possible to make certain sectors - agriculture, telecommunications, transport, etc. - more efficient, it places Tunisia in a good position in the aerospace race in Africa.

Quoted by Jeune Afrique, an engineer from the El Ghazela technological center in Tunis explains that the enthusiasm observed after the satellite's launch is a little too excessive. “There is frankly no need to boast and talk about a great national achievement. This type of work is regularly launched by American universities, ”he warns.

Certainly, but it had to be done already. The boss of TelNet Holding, Mohamed Frikha, has ambitions for Tunisia. He dreams of managing a fleet of around thirty satellites in the next two years. He calls for the creation of a “national space agency”. But be careful not to burn your wings: Frikha, former deputy and unsuccessful presidential candidate, had already tried to revolutionize the Tunisian airline sector by launching Syphax. The company went bankrupt in 2013 and its founder had to sell his shares in TelNet to bail out.

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