João Lourenço and Boe Biden
João Lourenço (left), president of Angola, met with President Joe Biden Nov. 30, the day Angola signed the Artemis Accords. Credit: White House

WASHINGTON — Angola signed the U.S.-led Artemis Accords outlining best practices for space exploration Nov. 30, becoming the third African nation to do so.

The signing took place during the visit of Angola’s president, João Lourenço, to the White House to meet with President Joe Biden. The signing was mentioned briefly in White House statements about the meeting.

In a background briefing about the meeting, a senior administration official called Angola an “important country” to sign the accords even though the country has a small space program.

“One of the hallmarks of President Biden’s administration’s policy towards Africa is incorporating our African partners in the most important conversations that affect the future of this very decisive decade in space — space norms,” the official said. “And our approach towards how countries behave and operate in outer space is incredibly important, and the Africans have and should be at the table for that conversation.”

Angola is the third African nation to sign the accords, after Rwanda and Nigeria, which joined in December 2022 during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. Thirty-three countries have now signed the accords, 10 of which have done so this year. Angola is the first country to join the Accords without first signing the Outer Space Treaty.

“Angola is already using space-based capabilities to map United Nations sustainable development goals across the country, helping to tackle ambitious objectives such as eliminating poverty and hunger,” Mike Gold, chief growth officer at Redwire and a former NASA official who helped develop the Accords, told SpaceNews. “By signing the Artemis Accords, Angola is taking its space ambitions beyond Earth orbit, while supporting norms of behavior that will lead to a peaceful and prosperous future in space for all of humanity to enjoy.”

Angola’s signing comes after a meeting of U.S. and African space industry officials during the International Astronautical Congress in October in Baku, Azerbaijan. “It is exactly this type of outreach that I think is critical to achieving our goals in space diplomacy in this new and collaborative space era,” said Valda Vikmanis Keller, director of the Office of Space Affairs within the State Department, at a Dec. 1 meeting of the National Space Council’s Users’ Advisory Group.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...