The Republic of Djibouti has launched its first satellite, Djibouti 1A. It took off last weekend from the Vandenberg Space Force Base onboard the SpaceX Transporter-9, a dedicated SSO rideshare mission carrying a variety of payloads into sun-synchronous orbit.
A sun-synchronous orbit is a type of polar orbit that enables a satellite to pass over the same part of the Earth at roughly the same local solar time, useful for consistent shadow angles for imagery and consistent lighting for solar power.
Djibouti 1A was developed via a joint capacity-building programme between Djibouti and its technical partner, France’s Centre Spatial Universitaire de Montpellier (CSUM). Djiboutian engineers and technicians in France designed, constructed and tested the satellite.
Djibouti 1A is a nanosatellite – a small satellite, typically weighing between one and ten kilograms, used for space research and communication purposes. It will collect national, real-time data from climatological and seismic stations, including temperature, rainfall, river depth, and hydrometry, to help boost agricultural production and monitor environmental changes.
Djibouti’s Minister of Higher Education and Research, Mr Nabil Mohamed Ahmed, is quoted in a number of news reports as saying: “The objective was to make the satellite but not to buy it, and have it manufactured by our students to make this technological leap and say in an uninhibited way that Djibouti is capable of manufacturing a satellite, launching it, collecting results for the climate but also getting started in development perspectives. The result is that ten technicians and engineers were trained.”
This satellite first for an African country should be followed fairly soon by another. As we reported in October, Senegal is preparing for the launch of its first satellite, initially scheduled for 2021 and postponed to 2023 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.