Egypt’s Latest Earth Observation Satellite Launched

Artist's rendition of a satellite - mechanik/123RF Stock Photo

Artist’s rendition of a satellite – mechanik/123RF Stock Photo

EgyptSat-A, also known as MisrSat-A, was launched on Thursday 21st February from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan by the Soyuz-2-1b/Fregat rocket.

This is Egypt’s third Earth observation satellite following EgyptSat-1 and EgyptSat-2. which were launched in 2007 and 2014 respectively. Unfortunately, EgyptSat-2 suffered a dual failure of its flight control system which meant it failed only one year into a planned eleven-year mission. In total it’s Egypt’s sixth satellite launch as they’ve also got a constellation of three communication satellites, and it’s Africa’s 31st satellite launch.

EgyptSat-A is effectively a replacement for EgyptSat-2, although it is an improved version and was built by the Russia firm RSC Energia. It’s reported to have cost $100 million to build, but more interestingly it’s also reported that some of the funding came from an insurance payout following the failure of EgyptSat-2.

The satellite carries a high-resolution imaging instrument which operates with a spatial resolution of 1m in panchromatic mode, and 4m in multispectral mode. It has a swath width of 1 400 km and is operating in a polar orbit at an altitude of around 650 km. The imagery produced will be used emergency response, environmental monitoring, supporting agricultural and by the Egyptian military. The first images from the satellite are expected this week.

The programme is run by Egypt’s National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences, and they are already planning to increase the number of satellites in orbit by having discussions to move towards round-the-clock monitoring.

This launch itself did not go smoothly. There were reported technical issues with the third stage of the Soyuz rocket, due to errors in calibrating the fuel sensors, which left the satellite 60 km below its required orbit. A fuel burn from the Fregat booster enabled the planned orbit to be achieved. This isn’t hugely unusual: two of Galileo satellites weren’t put into their planned orbits in 2014 and used some of their own fuel to reach the required altitude

The next scheduled launch for the Soyuz rocket was on the 26th February from French Guiana and the payload includes the first six satellite 5G constellation from the UK firm OneWeb – who have ambitions to put 2,000 satellites into orbit. However, as it uses the same third stage design, the investigations have forced a one-day delay to the launch that is now scheduled for 27th February at 1837 GMT.

The story of this one satellite with its predecessors’ problems, insurance payout, launch issues, knock-on impacts and ultimate success demonstrates the challenges and difficulties everyone must overcome working in space.

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