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[CAIRO] Egypt is taking the final steps towards the launch of its first satellite for scientific research in October.

The satellite, known as Egyptsat 1, is being built by the National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences in collaboration with Ukraine, which is providing technical expertise and training. Construction is currently underway, and several ground stations are being built to receive satellite data, monitor and analyse climatic phenomena and forecast future changes.

According to Egypt's minister of Higher Education and minister of State for Scientific Research, Moufid Shehab, work on the satellite is being carried out at the science and technology park Mubarak City for Scientific Research and Technological Applications, near Alexandria. Sixty young Egyptian scientists are being trained in satellite technology as part of the initiative, he says. 

The Egyptian government first announced its intention to build the satellite — which will be used for peaceful purposes, especially desert exploration — in August 2002, after signing an agreement with Ukraine on bilateral cooperation in state-of-the-art technology.

Egypt has already launched a number of satellites for nonscientific purposes. It launched Nilesat 101 and Nilesat 102 in 1998 and 2000, respectively. These satellites now deliver more than 150 digital television channels as well as radio and multimedia services to more than 5 million homes over the whole of North Africa, from Morocco to the Persian Gulf. The government has also recently announced plans to launch its first 'reconnaissance satellite' for civilian research within two years, with assistance from Western governments.

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