Morocco has launched its first observation satellite designed for civilian and military purposes, surveillance of the country’s borders and the monitoring of desertification in the region. The launch service provider Arianespace added that it would be also used for special planning, monitoring, mapping activities, monitoring of agricultural activities, management and prevention of natural disasters and monitoring of environmental developments.
The satellite was named after Morocco’s king Mohammed VI and it was launched from the European-run spaceport Kourou, French Guiana, but it will be piloted from an operating center near the capital, Rabat. The satellite was until recently known by the codename MN35-13 and it was disclosed only last week who the end user was. It was built by Airbus Defense & Space and Thales Alenia Space and a second launch is planned for 2018, though it is reportedly triggering some concern in neighboring Algeria and nearby Spain. The project’s cost has not been disclosed. The surveillance satellite rode a 30-meter Vega rocket into a roughly 620-kilometer polar orbit. The Vega’s solid-fueled first stage powered the launcher towards the sky, steering the rocket north over the Atlantic Ocean.
“Arianespace is delighted to confirm that the Mohammed VI-A satellite successfully separated in its targeted sun-synchronous orbit,” said Luce Fabreguettes, Executive Vice-President for missions, operations and purchasing at Arianespace. “This is the third successful launch for Vega this year, and its 11th success for clients and partners since the launch vehicle began its career at the Guiana Space Center.” The launcher has successfully placed 26 spacecraft into orbit for commercial customers, international governments, the European Space Agency, the European Commission.
With the launch of Mohammed VI-A, Morocco joins South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Egypt, all of whom have launched their own space programs within the past decade. Karim Tajmouati, head of the Moroccan government’s delegation to attend the satellite’s deployment in orbit in French Guiana, said he felt “intense joy and relief”. “This satellite, Mohammed VI-A, which is now on orbit, is the pride of all Moroccans and the Kingdom of Morocco,” Mr. Tajmouati said and added that “this project, which was wanted by His Majesty, the King of Morocco, is a technological adventure, an advanced technological adventure, which will allow high value-added applications and developments in such diverse areas as land surveying, mapping, environmental management, the prevention of natural disasters and climatic disasters, land development, and also the following of agricultural activities.”