Satellite disappearance points to disarray in Egyptian space program

Authorities and security bodies have launched investigations into the disappearance of Egypt Sat-1. Officials lost communication with the satellite three months ago.

Minister of Higher Education and State for Scientific Research, Hani Helal, attributed the loss of communication to possible technical defects.

Ukrainian experts, previously operating the satellite, have pledged to restore contact by the second week of November, according to Helal.

The minister also said that failing to re-establish communication with the satellite will have legal repercussions for the Ukrainian team.

Sources said officials from the Egyptian National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences and the Scientific Research Academy will be summoned for the investigations.

Abdel Qader Shouhaib, chairman of the publishing firm Dar al-Hial, previously reported on the disappearance of Egypt Sat-1. The coverage suggested the satellite program was in decline and the youth recruited for it abandoned the program.

Shouhaib also said plans for launching Egypt-Sat 2 have stalled because of the complications with its predecessor.

Ateyya Shaheen, the designated head of the second satellite program, said such setbacks are common when carrying out major projects but those mistakes will lead to future progress.

A former official in the Egyptian satellite program said Sat-1 was lost three times in three years but was recovered in each case. The chances of establishing connection this time, however, are low, according to the official.

The same official said said most experts have already left the space program for other opportunities because of technical and administrative deficiencies in the program.

"They have preferred jobs at cement factories to continuing with the space program," he said.

Commenting on the current stand-off, space research expert Faeq Abdel Hamid said, "just as we are about to operate nuclear reactors, we are unable to control a space satellite."

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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