Zimbabwe’s first satellite, ZimSat-1, and Uganda’s PearlAfricaSat-1, part of the BIRDS-5 constellation, were launched to the International Space Station (ISS) today, bringing Africa’s total launched satellites to 51. Both satellites are provisionally scheduled to be released from the Japanese Kibo module on 21 November 2022.
The launch is a milestone that will enhance mineral exploration and monitoring of environmental hazards and droughts. Additionally, it will aid in mapping human settlements and disease outbreaks, among other capabilities, in Zimbabwe. For Uganda, the multispectral camera mission will deliver photos with a 20-meter resolution to help with analyses of water quality, soil fertility, land use, and cover. In addition, by keeping an eye on the East African crude oil pipeline, the satellite will be crucial to the oil and gas business, and the data collected from the remote sensors to detect landslides and droughts will allow more precise weather forecasts.
The launch, initially scheduled for Sunday, November 6, 2022, and scrubbed due to a fire alarm at the launch site, occurred at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility aboard the Northrop Grumman (NG-18 Cygnus) commercial cargo resupply services to the International Space Station (ISS) on behalf of NASA. After the ISS receives the satellites, it will deploy them into orbit later.
The satellites are 1U educational and amateur radio mission CubeSats manufactured by the Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan. Many experts consider the programme the first baby steps of the country’s fledgling space programme.
BIRDS-5 is a constellation of CubeSats, including PEARLAFRICASAT-1, the first satellite developed by Uganda; ZIMSAT-1, Zimbabwe’s first satellite; and TAKA from Japan, which consists of both 1U and 2U satellite configurations. In addition, BIRDS-5 performs multispectral observations of Earth using a commercial off-the-shelf camera and demonstrates a high-energy electronic measuring instrument. The statistical data collected could help distinguish bare ground from forest and farmland and possibly indicate the quality of agricultural growth.
The Birds satellite project is led by the Graduate school of Engineering of the Kyushu Institute of Technology, Japan to provide students from developing countries with hands-on training in satellite design, manufacture, and testing, and ultimately leading successful space programmes in their respective countries.
You can watch the launch via this link.
Ayooluwa Adetola is a writer and editor at Space in Africa. She loves to share scientific information using the simplest words possible. When she’s not in front of a screen, she can be found with her nose buried in a book.