ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopia’s first-ever satellite has been launched into space by China.
The earth observatory satellite is designed to help the East African nation gather data for agricultural, mining and environmental protection.
"Ethiopia has joined the effort to seek knowledge and information from space," Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, said in a congratulatory message to Ethiopians.
He said that Ethiopia will send up more satellites in collaboration with other countries, without giving details.
“This is a day we became one of the 70 countries in the world that operate a satellite from space,” said Ahmedin Mohammed, an official with Ethiopia’s Innovation and Technology Ministry. “The next step is to launch a communication satellite and also set up a space materials assembly and manufacturing facility here in Ethiopia.”
Ethiopian space officials stated both Ethiopian and Chinese engineers took part in the construction of the 72 kilogram (159 pound) satellite that took three years.
The total cost of the satellite was $8 million, of which $6 million was covered by China, said Ethiopian officials. Ethiopia hopes to save up to $11 million a year by using their own satellite data.
The satellite was sent into space from Shanxi Province in China. Ethiopian and Chinese officials monitored the launch from a command and control center set up in the outskirts of the capital Addis Ababa. They watched a video stream from China.
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is credited with starting the satellite program three years ago while he was Minister for Technology.