Archive for the ‘Congo’ Category

A Brief History of The Congolese Space Program

Monday, December 20th, 2010

The Democratic Republic of Congo (not to be confused with the Republic of Congo immediately to the west…. Seriously) has a surprisingly rich history of space programs and rocket launches.

The story first begins back when the DRC was known as Zaire back in the late 1970s. A German company by the name of Orbital Transport und Raketn Aktiengesellschaft (OTRAG) decided to set up a rocket testing and launch facility in the Shaba Province of Zaire and signed an agreement with the government in 1976. To sweeten the deal, Zaire would be given one experimental satellite and a reduced rate for any future rocket launches. Logistical reasons that Zaire was chosen were the low population density near the launch site and because it was near the equator where rockets are just a tad easier to put into orbit.

However, the main reason why OTRAG didn’t set up in West Germany was a combination of two factors. The first factor was the United Nations Outer Space Treaty of 1967 which states that all rockets fired in international air space must be flagged from the country of origin. This directly conflicted with the 1954 Treaty of Brussels which, in part, prohibits the production of long-range or guided missiles on German territory. Zaire had no issue with providing the rockets with a Zaire flag and they placed no restrictions on OTRAG for missile development.

Rockets were launched beginning in 1977 with both successful launches and failures. However, due to intense pressure from the Soviet Union and France, two countries none too pleased with German rocket advancement, Zaire closed the program down in 1979. The video below is one of the failures.

More after the jump!