Rwanda in partnership with OneWeb, a global communications company building the world’s largest constellation of satellites, on Wednesday 27th February 2019, launched its first ever satellite in French Guiana.
French Guiana is an overseas department of France on the northeast coast of South America, composed mainly of tropical rainforest.
According to One Web, the rocket lifted off at 4:37pm Eastern Standard Time (EST) and launched into the orbit.
It has six satellites including Rwanda’s first satellite locally named “ICYEREKEZO”.
The six satellites were successfully separated from the rocket. They will soon be followed by the remaining four.
They will now deploy their solar panels and begin generating power from the sun, to begin their journey to provide connectivity everywhere.
On why it was not launched in Rwanda, Gordon Kalema of Rwanda ICT ministry said: “One, it is being done under partnership with One Web.”
He added: “Second, satellites are normally launched by the sea to minimise risks.”
Airbus Defence and Space the Europe largest space company, and OneWeb Satellites teamed up to design and manufacture up to 900 satellites for the OneWeb constellation, which would provide affordable high-speed Internet access across the globe.
The challenge is enormous, since satellites have never been mass produced before.
A requirement to produce several small satellites a day has inspired us to develop innovative designs and processes that dramatically lower the cost in large volumes for high performance space applications.
The plan calls for satellites of less than 150kg each that feature fewer electrical connections between subsystems than is typical of today’s satellites.
With first models manufactured at OneWeb Satellites facility at the Airbus Defence and Space Toulouse site in France, full series production will take place at OneWeb Satellites new factory in Florida, demonstrating once again the agility of this joint venture.
With this generation of satellites, OneWeb Satellites is entering a new chapter in space story.
Rwanda has placed technology at the forefront as a key driver of national development and transformation.
Launching ‘Icyerekezo’, a global satellite, is a symbol of Rwanda’s commitment to build the local space industry, build local capacity, inspire the younger generation and prepare to usher Rwanda into a hyper-connected future.
Leveraging investments made in rolling out a fiber optic backbone network, 92% 3G Coverage, and 96.6% 4G LTE coverage, there’s still a significant need to explore other last-mile solutions that will bridge the digital divide in an inclusive and sustainable way.
Both Rwanda and OneWeb believe that without a means of connection, economies stagnate, education falls behind, and development slows significantly compared to connected regions.