Ethiopia has launched its first satellite into space from China

unnamed-file-1-696x487Ethiopia launched its first observatory satellite into space on Friday (Dec. 20), according to local reports.

The 70 kilogram remote sensing satellite is to be used for agricultural, climate, mining and environmental observations, allowing the Horn of Africa to collect data and improve its ability to plan for changing weather patterns for example. The satellite will operate from space around 700 kilometers above the surface of earth.

The launch, which was originally scheduled for September, took place at 03.21hours GMT from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Xinzhou, Shanxi Province, China. The satellite was carried on board a Long March 4B rocket.

The Chinese satellite was designed and built at a cost of $8 million, with China paying around $6 million of the capsule’s price, according to the head of the Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute (ESSTI) at Addis Ababa University. Though it was launched from China its command and control center is based at the Entoto Observatory and Space Science Research Center (EORC) in Ethiopia, which is part of the Ethiopian Space, Science and Technology Institute (ESSTI).

In 2016, the Ethiopian government established ESSTI as a way to fully exploit space technologies for development purposes. In Jan. 2017, the ministry of science and technology announced it would launch a satellite into orbit in three to five years to improve its weather-monitoring capabilities. This followed the launch of a privately-funded, multi-million-dollar astronomical observatory in the Entoto hills overlooking Addis Ababa—a one-of-its-kind station that would allow Ethiopia to observe both the northern and southern hemisphere skies.