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Tunisia launches first satellite

Executives from Tunisian company Telnet and from GK Launch Services at the signing of their contract in Tunis on 1 April 2019. (Photo via Telnet)

Tunisia celebrated the launch of its first domestically made satellite, hoping it would inspire young engineers to reach for the stars at home rather than join those emigrating overseas.

Challenge-1, built by a team from telecommunications giant TelNet, blasted off along with 37 other satellites aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday.

That made Tunisia the sixth African country to manufacture its own satellite and see it reach space.

“It’s a source of pride to have taken part in this project,” said Khalil Chiha, 27, who trained at Tunisia’s National Engineering School in the central city of Sfax.

“Working in the aeronautical or aerospace sector is a dream.”

Tunisia had been struck by an economic crisis and skyrocketing unemployment even before the coronavirus pandemic, and recent months have seen growing anti-government protests.

Several thousand engineers leave each year to seek work abroad.

Many of the Challenge-1 engineers were educated in Tunisia and are aged between 25 and 30 years old.

Officials hope the success will show young people there is a future for them in the North African nation.

The Challenge-1 is set to collect data including temperature, pollution and humidity readings over areas without internet coverage, as part of efforts to gather such information from areas beyond terrestrial phone networks.

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