Uganda and Zimbabwe launched their first nanosatellites into space on Monday in an effort to collect data for catastrophe monitoring, agricultural development, and mineral mapping.
A rocket carrying the satellites, named P earlAfricaSat-1 (for Uganda) and ZIMSAT-1 (for Zimbabwe), was successfully launched from Virginia, United States, alongside Uganda’s first
satellite, as part of a multi-nation initiative by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
Monday marked the successful launch of Uganda’s first-ever satellite, which was constructed by three Ugandan and Japanese engineers as part of an international satellite design initiative.
PearlAfricaSat-1, the country’s cube-shaped satellite, will be put into low earth orbit in December of this year.
According to the country’s Ministry of Science and Technology, PearlAfricaSat-1 is planned to deliver research and observation data that will provide solutions for weather forecasting, mapping of land and water bodies, mapping of minerals, and monitoring of agriculture. Other considerations include catastrophe mitigation, infrastructure development, and border security.
The minister for Science, Technology, and Innovation, Ms. Monica Musenero, stated that the new space services that would be accessible next year will serve as a catalyst for the nation’s economy, benefiting a variety of sectors.
Musenero added that “as a country, the development of PearlAfricaSat-1 presents opportunities for the development of subsequent satellites locally in Uganda, meaning our engineers and scientists will be providing practical solutions to the challenges facing the Ugandan citizens as well as boosting the country’s internal capacity to develop the space science and technology industry value chain.”
Since April 2020, the successful design of the satellite has been the result of the BIRDS-5 project, during which the three Ugandan engineers on the team received training in satellite design, fabrication, and testing.
The BIRDS-5 project, which aims to create an indigenous space program by designing, constructing, testing, launching, and operating the first satellites for participating African countries, is being implemented in conjunction with the Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan and Zimbabwe.
Edgar Mujuni, Derrick Tebusweke, and Bonny Omara, who hold master’s degrees in space systems engineering, were tasked with designing, testing, and launching Uganda’s first satellite. In addition, they will provide graduate engineers with specialized training in satellite development and create Uganda’s first satellite communication network and a laboratory to assist knowledge transfer.
Recently, NASA was given the satellite to transport to the international space station, from which it will be deployed into low earth orbit.
All of the satellite’s data will be examined and utilized in Uganda via a ground station run from Uganda.
Uganda is also constructing a ground station at Mpoma in Mukono for Ugandan command, control, and management of the PearlAfricasat-1.
With the assistance of Japanese-trained engineers, a crew of Ugandans will be entrusted with installing ground sensor terminals to permit satellite communication.
Uganda has been granted the opportunity to utilize the services of the other satellites operated under the BIRDS-5 project, in addition to the information that would be received from the satellite.
The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) tweeted on Monday that the rocket “will transport satellites from Japan, Uganda, and Zimbabwe as well as studies on plant mutations and mudflow structure.”
Zimbabwe’s planning to launch the satellite began in 2018, less than a year after President Emmerson Mnangagwa took office following the military overthrow of longtime leader Robert Mugabe.
He established the Zimbabwean National Geospatial and Space Agency (ZINGSA) to encourage research and innovation in the beleaguered southern African country.
The launch of the satellite, which was no larger than a shoebox, provoked a lively discussion on social media, with some praising the government for the accomplishment and others mocking the attempt. The satellite’s price has not been disclosed.
Late in September, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted that Zimbabwe’s economic growth would fall to roughly half of last year’s levels as a result of increasing fiscal instability and a decline in agricultural output.
For two decades, Zimbabwe’s economy has struggled, compelling many inhabitants to emigrate in quest of greener pastures.
The government blames Western sanctions for Zimbabwe’s economic troubles, but critics point to mismanagement and corruption in Harare.