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  • Writer's pictureSeraphine Dogbey

Tunisia engineers launch first-ever domestically built satellite

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic gloom, some Tunisian engineers have made a great stride to the stars.

On Monday, March 21, the country celebrated the official launch of its first domestically made satellite.

By this landmark, there is the hope to encourage young engineers to aspire for greater heights.

The satellite, was built by a team from telecommunications giant, TelNet.

Challenge-1 was blasted off together with 37 other satellites aboard a Russian oyuz rocket from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

On the back of this, Tunisia becomes the sixth African country to successfully manufacture and launch a satellite into space.

27-year-old Khalil Chiha who trained at Tunisia's National Engineering School was proud of the feat he contributed to.

"It's a source of pride to have taken part in this project. Working in the aeronautical or aerospace is a dream," he said.

He is one of the many Tunisian-educated engineers who worked on the satellite between the ages of 20 and 30 years.

The Challenge-1 is expected to collect data on temperature, pollution, humidity readings over area without internet coverage etc... This is part of efforts to obtain such area without terrestrial coverage.

The launch was broadcast live at the TelNet headquarters in Tunisia and watched by President Kais Saied together with engineers and journalists.

"Our real wealth is the youth who can face obstacles," Saied said, stressing that Tunisia lacks not resources but "national will" amid its dire social and political crises.

"We are proud of our youth," he said.

The Challenge-1 team was supported by expatriate Tunisian engineers, one of whom took part in NASA's recent Mars Perseverance mission.

"It really is a dream come true," TelNet project manager Anis Youssef told AFP, ahead of the launch.

While the aerospace industry is in full development in the Arab world, and 11 countries have launched satellites across Africa, making a homemade satellite is a harder task.

"The club of those who manufacture them is quite closed," said Tunisian aerospace engineer Ahmed El Fadhel, based in Belgium and president of Tunisian Space Association, a collective of scientists, experts and students interested in space technology.

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