By Frank Tumwebaze
The Outer Space is where satellites (including the moon) are located and operations in the Outer Space is for the benefit of mankind and not specific to any state.
The Ministries of Defence, ICT, Air Transport, etc. have got interests and do benefit from the Projects in the Outer Space.
Space science is therefore broad and involves Satellite Communication, weather forecasting and defense systems among others. The component relevant to the Ministry of ICT’s mandate, is satellite communication.
There is no firm boundary where Outer Space begins. However, the Kármán line, at an altitude of 100 km above sea level, is conventionally used as the start of Outer Space for the purpose of space treaties and aerospace records keeping.
The framework for international space law was established by the Outer Space Treaty, which was passed by the United Nations in 1967. This treaty precludes any claims of national sovereignty and permits all states to explore Outer Space freely for peaceful purposes. In 1979, the Moon Treaty made the surfaces of objects such as planets, as well as the orbital space around these bodies, the jurisdiction of the international community.
Additional resolutions regarding the peaceful uses of Outer Space have been drafted by the United Nations, but these have not precluded the deployment of weapons into Outer Space, including the live testing of anti-satellite weapons. In December, 2014, the African Union organized a Validation Workshop on the African Outer Space Policy and Strategy in Brazzaville-Congo.
At continental level, therefore, there are efforts to discuss and evolve relevant policies on the usage of space science. This continental forum is likely to help the AU members understand more on the development of the Policy and Strategy regarding the Outer Space usage.
Satellite Communication (Geostationary Orbital slots):
In the management of outer space specific mention should be made of the geostationary orbital slots.
The geostationary orbit (approx. 36,000 KMs above sea level) is a geosynchronous orbit which is in the same plane as the equator. This is the orbit where communications satellites are located and makes them perfect repeaters of radio signals because they appear stationary relative to the earth.
Each Member of the United Nations (Uganda inclusive) is allocated one orbital slot which it can use or in partnership with other institutions. The governance of these orbital slots is carried out by the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (ITSO).
Uganda has been an active member of ITSO and I am glad to report to Parliament that last year, Ugandan fielded a candidate, campaigned and won for the position of Director General of ITSO.
As mentioned above, Uganda being an active member of ITU and ITSO benefits from outer space through satellite broadcasting, telecommunications services (telecom operators and other ISPs use satellite as a primary and alternative route for both backup and emergencies for data and voice communications), metrological services and geo mapping (location of mineral deposits and water basins) among others.
Government of Uganda through Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) manages and regulates the usage of airspace in as far as Communication services are concerned. This is done though the management of the National table of frequency allocations derived from the International Table of Frequency Allocations under the framework of International Telecommunications Union (ITU) where Uganda is an active member on the Council of Administration.
Furthermore, Uganda is allocated orbital slots (with code number UGA 05100) under the ITU Orbital Slots Allocation table for the development of space communication infrastructure e.g. Development and launch of satellites.
Uganda’s policy and strategy on satellite communication
As a country, we would wish in future to develop and launch communication satellites because it is the most safer and reliable means of communication, though expensive. Currently, we are depending on optic fibre and other outsourced external satellite service providers for connection to other Countries.
Optic fibre communication is affordable but prone to Natural and man-made disasters which satellite communication supersedes. The Ministry of ICT and National Guidance is currently developing a digital vision for Uganda as an overall ICT policy framework and it will set digital milestones for each sector of Government. Country aspirations on Satellite development and deployment will be part of this ICT digital framework and its implementation will depend on the Country’s resource envelop.