Technion satellite project 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy of the Technion)
Since Egyptian technicians lost touch two years ago with an observation
satellite they hoped would help carry the country into the “space club,” the
country has struggled to make progress in gaining intelligence satellite
capabilities, but it remains committed to the program, a space security expert
told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
Tal Dekel, a research fellow at Tel
Aviv University’s Yuval Ne’eman Workshop for Science, Technology and Security,
said few were aware of the extent of Egypt’s satellite program.
talk about the Iranians, but no one talks about Egypt’s program, which includes
much more than a satellite,” he said.
Cairo has been busy with a complex
space initiative made up of several components.
The program is disguised
as scientific research, Dekel said.
As part of the scientific veneer, the
satellite program is run under the National Authority for Remote Sensing and
“They say the satellites are scientific. But usually, by
this stage, most satellites are dual use,” Dekel explained. “As resolutions
improve and technology progresses, satellites can become good enough for
In 2007, Egypt launched its first satellite capable of
photographing sites on earth, called the EgyptSat-1. The launch came after Egypt
awarded a tender to Ukraine to construct the satellite.
agreement, 60 Egyptian scientists were trained by Ukraine, with the aim of Egypt
developing the capability to operate the satellite independently. The Egyptians
hoped to eventually construct another satellite on their own and launch it by
2017. The second satellite was supposed to be comprised of 60 percent Egyptian-
But in 2010, the program took a turn for the worse, when
all communications with EgyptSat-1 were lost.
Dozens of Egyptian
scientists lost their jobs in the aftermath.
Egypt kept the setback
secret for three months, before details leaked out, Dekel said.
not given up its ambitions to join the space club. Today, Dekel said, “Egyptian
students are being qualified to continue to program, both in Egypt and around
The technological know-how needed to reach this goal is vast,
“You need to be able to maneuver the satellite in space
for missions, and to repair its course in orbit.
When the satellite
passes over you, you have to download its images. The Egyptians still can’t do
it alone,” he said.
Hence, Egypt has not set a date for the launch of its
next satellite, EgyptSat-2.
EgyptSat-2 will be designed to snap photos
with ground resolution of 5.4 meters per pixel, and would represent a milestone
in Egypt’s path toward intelligence satellite capabilities.
countries want to be members of the space club, but few have the real ability to
join it,” Dekel said.
Currently, Dekel noted, Israel is one of only 10
countries capable of building their own satellites, launching them from their
territory and maneuvering them in space.
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