China supplying Egypt with satellites: what are the motives?
Egypt will become the first African country with full satellite assembly and integration testing capabilities.
A report by Arushi Singh for the Geopolitical Monitor on Thursday detailed the reasons why China has been providing Egypt with satellites for free.
According to the report, Egypt has become the first African country to have the capability to assemble, integrate, and test satellites.
This milestone was achieved with the delivery of two prototype satellites funded by China for the MisrSat II satellite project.
This development not only brings satellite manufacturing to Egypt but also positions the country as a leader in technology transfer to Africa, the report states.
Meanwhile, the delivery of the MisrSat II satellite's flight model has been scheduled for a later date.
In January 2019, China and Egypt signed a $72 million grant for Egypt's space program, marking the third such grant from China for a satellite project.
Over the following years, Egyptian and Chinese engineers collaborated on operating the satellite, including its ground control station and application system.
Egypt previously announced that the MisrSat II satellite is scheduled to launch from China in October.
It will depart from Cairo on June 28 and undergo final testing in China before its launch. The satellite is designed to have a lifespan of five years from its launch date.
Ambassador Liqiang highlighted the project's significance by referring to it as achieving "four firsts," namely:
- Egypt being the first nation to engage in satellite cooperation with China within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.
- China assisting Egypt in establishing a comprehensive satellite assembly, integration, and test center, where Chinese and Egyptian scientists and engineers will work together on the assembly and testing of Egypt's MisrSat II.
- China providing support in building Egypt's aerospace team and providing joint training for Egyptian aerospace experts.
- Upon project completion, Egypt will become the first African country with full satellite assembly and integration testing capabilities.
With its 2-meter high-resolution capability, the MisrSat II satellite is set to support Egypt's Vision 2030 for sustainable development.
Egyptian officials have outlined its applications, including crop identification, mineral resource exploration, urban planning support, and coastal transformation monitoring.
This satellite transfer signifies a major accomplishment for China, representing its first comprehensive satellite test abroad and the successful implementation of a satellite cooperation project in a foreign country.
Additionally, the Egyptian Space Agency has established a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese Land Satellite Remote Sensing Application Centre (LASAC) for remote sensing data.
Meanwhile, the Saudi Space Agency is engaged in discussions with Chinese enterprises for potential collaborations.
CASC has completed the assembly & testing of MisrSat-2 (EgyptSat-2) at the Chinese-built AIT in Egypt. This 350-kg remote sensing sat will be transported back to China for launch in October.https://t.co/xDWWshJ6u0 https://t.co/IlQSiVL0TC pic.twitter.com/6aFRGf9wl3— China 'N Asia Spaceflight 🚀𝕏 🛰️ (@CNSpaceflight) June 28, 2023
Egypt is the third-largest recipient of US military aid worldwide, trailing only Ukraine and "Israel."
Additionally, Egypt has become a notable participant in China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), attracting substantial Chinese investments.
Over 1,500 Chinese companies operate in Egypt across diverse sectors, such as IT, electricity, telecommunications, and transportation.
China and Egypt have forged a comprehensive partnership, with a cooperation portfolio worth around $1.7 billion.
This funding is directed towards various development areas, including electricity, healthcare, education, vocational training, and more.
In 2022, their collaboration expanded to encompass increased technical cooperation, focusing on capacity-building and human resource development.
This collaboration extended to entities like the Egyptian Space Agency, among other initiatives.
Countries like Pakistan and Egypt are increasingly looking to China for their digital infrastructure needs, considering the integration of Chinese satellite internet, including low earth orbit (LEO) broadband, due to their reliance on Chinese assets like submarine cables, fiber optics, 5G networks, and satellite ground stations.
China's economic influence in various countries also enables it to discourage the adoption of US services.
Conversely, the US, EU member states, Russia, and Taiwan are developing their satellite constellations and broadband networks.
For instance, Russia's Roscosmos has invited Algeria and Egypt to participate in a space station project, fostering their national space programs.
This space race aims to provide real-time, low-latency satellite internet for various applications, with Egypt's hosting of the African Space Agency potentially enhancing China's interest in space-related activities.
China's "Guo Wang" project seeks to create an extensive satellite network in near-Earth orbit, aiming to compete with Elon Musk's Starlink.
It involves over 12,000 satellites owned by China Satellite Network Group Co., though the launch schedule remains undisclosed.
This network's scale would rival SpaceX's plans, with rapid deployment to secure a position in low orbit, potentially countering Starlink.
Chinese satellites may also have surveillance and other "anti-Starlink" capabilities.
China's strategic focus is on emerging nations facing financial constraints, particularly those lacking satellites in orbit.
Their affordable satellites appeal to developing countries, with China offering financial aid, technology transfer, and training.
The Belt and Road Space Information Corridor is pivotal, granting participant countries access to satellite and space launch capabilities, improving resource management, weather forecasting, disaster response, and reducing reliance on US satellites.
This strategy enhances China's goodwill, influence, and access to partner capabilities.
Presently, China seeks to create remote sensing satellite networks in Africa, supporting Belt and Road (BRI) partner countries' logistical integration.
China played key roles in launching Nigeria's first two communications satellites in 2007 and 2011 and deploying Algeria's initial communication satellite in 2017.
In 2018, Tunisia became the first non-Chinese host of a Beidou Satellite Navigation System ground receiving station.
Additionally, China aided Ethiopia and Sudan in launching their first satellites in 2019.
In sum, China is actively increasing its global influence in space exploration and satellite technology through ongoing collaborations and partnerships.
Providing satellites to Egypt is part of China's larger goal to expand its presence in space and satellite services, aligning with initiatives like the BRI and strengthening its strategic interests in Africa.
This move positions China to play a significant role in shaping the global landscape of satellite communication and connectivity.
Additionally, China's growing presence in the satellite industry reflects its strategic focus on emerging countries that may have limited negotiating power or control over such projects.