Wednesday, 18 May, 2022


Space Exploration in Africa

In 1964, Edward Mukuka Nkoloso, the founder of the Zambia National Academy of Science, Space Research and Philosophy, had the bold intention to beat the USA and the Soviet Union in the space race, and landing a Zambian on the moon. Using distinctive techniques, such as spinning students around a tree in an oil drum, Nkoloso trained 12 astronauts. Although he was unsuccessful, fortunately, Africa’s space programs now look much more promising.

Africa’s space programs account for a very small part of the world’s space activity but the continent’s profile in space is growing. Since 1999, 11 African countries have successfully launched 38 unilateral and three multilateral satellites into orbit. It is estimated that by 2024, at least 19 African countries will have launched at least one satellite into space, with the total number of satellites launched by African countries rising to over 90. This is bringing faster internet, better weather forecasting and improved disaster management to the continent.

Nigeria and South Africa have by far the most advanced space programs out of all the African countries. South Africa is to host the world’s biggest radio telescope, the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) which, if successful, will enable astronomers to look much deeper into space. While Nigeria is taking the charge in space travel. They are planning to be the first African country to send an astronaut into space. The government announced the plans last year, and is aiming to visit space by 2030.

Africa’s top Space Programs:

Aside from Nigeria and South Africa, there are also a number of interesting developments from other African countries.

  • In 2015, the multi-million dollar Entoto Observatory and Research Center was opened near the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
  • Kenya has launched its first cube satellite this year, designed by experts at the University of Nairobi.
  • Ghana is also venturing into space technology and successfully sent its first satellite into orbit.

There are several space research organizations that are engaged in activities related to outer space and space exploration in Africa. Some are:

  • South African Space Agency, South Africa:

The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) was established in 2010. The agency has made noteworthy advancements towards addressing its mandate of deriving greater value from space science and technology for the benefit of South African society.

  • National Space Research and Development Agency, Nigeria:

NASRDA was established with a primary objective of establishing a “fundamental policy for the development of space science and technology”. In May 2006, the new extended national space program was adopted.

  • Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute, Ethiopia:

The main objectives of the Establishment of Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute(ESSTI) for example is to enable the country to fully exploit multi-dimensional uses of space science and technologies; (someting Nigeria can easily replicate) to produce demand-based knowledgeable, skilled and attitudinally matured professionals in the field of aerospace science that enable the country to become internationally competitive in the sector; to develop and strengthen space science and technology infrastructures to speed up space science and technology development in the country, and enable the country to be a robust contributor for the development of aerospace science and technology.


The upstream commercial space ecosystem is ready to take on a lunar mission.  However, the industry would require a long-term investment and work on international partnerships to achieve such a goal. A long-term vision involving the government, development financiers and other entities would also be required.

With the right resources, Africa would be the one to look out for.

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