i initiative

Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

African Resource Management Satellite (ARMC) Constellation

Posted by Simon Adebola on December 21, 2009

The African Resource Management Constellation (ARMC), a collaboration currently involving Nigeria, South Africa Kenya, and Algeria. Initially conceived around 2004, when it was named the African Resource and Environmental Management Satellite Constellation, the initiative was meant to develop a constellation of satellites to provide real time, unrestricted and affordable access to satellite data to support effective environmental and resource management in Africa. Three meetings held in May 2005 in Algeria, September 2005 in Stellenbosch, RSA, and November 2005 in Abuja, Nigeria, demonstrated the commitment and momentum at the early stages of the project. During this period, a steering committee was formed and a plan of action developed to move the process forward. Other workshops held in Algeria in 2006, Pretoria, RSA in 2007 and in Kenya in 2008. These with the international awareness generated by the initiative, all helped to lay a good foundation for its success. The space agreement on the African Resources Management Satellite Constellation (ARMC), which is a Memorandum of Understanding between the partners, was signed by the governments of the four countries on the 7th of December 2009 during the Third African Leadership Conference on Space Science and Technology for Sustainable Development that held in Algiers, Algeria.

Signing of the ARMC Space Agreement, 7th December 2009 in Algiers, Algeria (Source: Algerian Space Agency)

As proposed, the constellation would help provide easy access to satellite data for end users in the following fields: disaster management, food security, public health, infrastructure, land use, and water resource management. It would thus support activities such as urban development, land use monitoring, and mapping for the surveillance of climate change effects. A constellation design was adopted that would have each satellite equipped with a 2.5m resolution panchromatic imager and a 5m resolution multispectral imager in 6 multispectral bands. Data from these identical satellites would be gotten through an integrated ground station. From the ground station, efforts would be made to ensure that the satellite data reach the end users all over the continent, as close to real time as possible.The program would also include capacity building initiatives and the development of low-cost multi-source ground receiving stations to aid the less privileged countries who can gain access through these stations to remote sensing and meteorological satellite data.

Algeria launched its first satellite, Alsat 1 in 2002 as part of the UK-led Disaster Management Constellation (DMC) programme. Nigeria launched its own first satellite in 2003 under the DMC programme. Both satellites were constructed by the Surrey Satellite Technology Limited, Guildford, United Kingdom. Nigeria, with Chinese support, also launched, the now failed, Nigcomsat-1 in May 2007. South Africa launched Africa’s first satellite (SunSat 1) built by the University of Stellenbosch, in February 1999. This last September it launched its second satellite, the Sumbandila Sat, aboard a Russian rocket. Although, Kenya inherited offshore launch facilities (San Marco launch platform) from the Italian space programme, it has no satellite of its own.

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