South Africa and Iran join space race

Image copyright AFP Image caption The six EGSA satellites are used by telecoms operators and the oil and gas sector

South Africa and Iran are among 38 countries chosen to send satellites into space as part of a space race being led by the European Space Agency (ESA).

The country signing up to the plan, known as Euclid, has already sent four satellites into space.

It includes 19 US, 19 South Africa, 9 Russia, 2 Israel, 1 South Korea, 1 Ethiopia, 1 Ghana, 1 Nigeria, 1 Republic of Kazakhstan, 1 Ukraine, 1 Republic of Albania, 1 Romania, 1 Armenia, 1 Sweden, 1 Albania, 1 Djibouti, 1 Oman, 1 Omani, 1 Colombia, 1 Chile, 1 Poland, 1 Turkmenistan, 1 Russia, 1 Thailand, 1 Tunisia

‘Engaging Africa’

The group behind the ESA plan wants to encourage more innovation in the industry, sparking a space race with China, which already has 100 satellites in orbit.

Cherie Blair, who chairs the UK Space Agency, says the bid for EU space funds is a “momentous” step.

The issue has been of intense focus among the leaders of the major South American and Asian nations, who meet in Peru this week to begin debate on opening up their space programmes.

“What we are doing is engaging Africa and let’s use this moment to take the next step on the road to rapid economic growth,” said Mr Blair, former wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The government is determined to help boost innovation in the economy, he added.

Image copyright AFP Image caption North Korea sent its first satellite into space in 2011

The move comes as France is urging China to allow its satellites into orbit, so Beijing may be regarded as a contender.

In August 2017, the European Commission agreed a 5.7bn euro ($7.8bn) five-year spending plan to develop space technologies.

ESA has committed 2.5bn euros over the period to the first phase of the programme, entitled “Engaging Africa”.

Image copyright AFP Image caption China hopes its satellites will aid its development

The programme’s scope is partly to support scientists and engineers in Africa but it also aims to boost sustainable economic growth in the continent.

In January the E3+ group, set up by US and African companies which aim to support space research and development in the region, announced that 33 nations had signed up.

The group currently has 21 members. A number of companies, including Citibank, also signed up to E3+ during a ceremony in Paris in January.

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