Albania’s first two satellites were launched into space from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS) on January 3.
Tirana plans to use the satellites to detect crimes such as drug cultivation, illegal construction and logging. They will also make it easier to monitor traffic and border security, and fight wildfires — a growing problem in Albania and other countries in the region.
The two satellites, Albania-1 and Albania-2, were part of SpaceX’s Transporter-6 rideshare mission from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral.
The mission lifted off at 9.56 am EST on January 3. The launch follows Albania’s $6mn deal with US-based Satellogic USA Inc. signed in 2022, to develop a dedicated satellite constellation that will enable satellite monitoring of the country’s territory.
“Just launched from the Cape Canaveral base in Florida, USA, the Falcon 9 rocket, the joint SpaceX Transporter 6 mission that carries our two satellites into space, ALBANIA1 and ALBANIA2,” Prime Minister Edi Rama wrote on Facebook.
“From today Albania has more high-tech capabilities to control, protect and administer the territory, providing in real time important data on a number of key aspects for sustainable development,” the prime minister added.
Rama previously announced in 2022 that the satellites will take Albania to a “new era in law enforcement in fighting corruption and strengthening the rule of law”.
Under the three-year deal with Satellogic, Albania will get priority access to the Albania-1 and Albania-2 satellites. Satellogic will provide Tirana with satellite imagery capabilities, training government specialists to analyse data from the satellites and provide information to government bodies.
Continued efforts to tackle drug cultivation are needed in Albania, which is one of the top countries worldwide for cannabis cultivation and distribution, the World Drug Report 2022 from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) revealed last year.
This is despite well publicised efforts by the Albanian government to eradicate its cultivation, notably with the large-scale operation at Lazarat – dubbed Europe’s ‘marijuana mountain’ back in 2014, shortly before Albania secured EU candidate status. However, reports since then indicate that drug cultivation has been rising since then, and the country also lies on the Balkan route for transportation of heroin to Europe.