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Cairo Approves Establishment of Egyptian Space Agency and Receives Further Chinese Funding For Its Space Programme

The Nile Delta at night. Image courtesy of NASA.

The Egyptian Council of Ministers approved on September 27, 2017, the establishment of a national space agency, according to the Egyptian Minister for Higher Education Khaled Abdel Ghaffar.

The ruling by the Council of Ministers will now pass on to the Egyptian parliament for final agreement and made into law.

Minister Abdel Ghaffar also said that Egypt intends create a satellite manufacturing centre in 2019, and then launch Egypt’s first indigenously made satellite in 2020.

This satellite is now dubbed Misr Sat 2, previously known as EgyptSat-2, and will be designed and manufactured at Space City, located in New Cairo. Space City is a one hundred acre plot of land where satellite manufacturing and other space facilities are being built. Misr Sat-2 is to be partly funded by China to the tune of U.S.$45 million after a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and China’s President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit held in Xiamen, China, earlier in September 2017.

The U.S.$45 million commitment from China is an addition to the U.S.$23 million contributed by Beijing in March 2017, as part of an overall aid package worth over U.S.$65 million for Egypt’s space programme.

Not all of this money is committed to the design and manufacture of Misr Sat-2, however, as a portion of the Chinese funding will be used to build the satellite manufacturing facilities at Space City.

The Chinese space funding is part of a larger aid package to Egypt thought to be worth U.S.$7 billion that is being used to develop infrastructure in Egypt and the Suez Canal, as well as modernise existing infrastructure.

Earlier in 2016, Egypt signed a deal with French companies Airbus Defense and Space and Thales Alenia Space for a military communications satellite. It is believed that the French companies also offered Egypt a high-resolution imagery satellite but that Cairo demurred because of the cost. It was later reported in the defence and aerospace press that South Korean and Russian companies were in discussions with Egypt to build a high-resolution imaging satellite, but China was not mentioned at the time.

China and Egypt have been busy building close ties with each other over the past several years as part of Beijing’s One Belt One Road initiative in order to secure China’s maritime access to the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal. From Cairo’s perspective, China is an economic lifeline in light of Egypt’s economic troubles since the political turmoil that occurred since 2011.

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