Zimbabwe is ready to launch its first satellite, ZimSat-1, into orbit next month after developing it through the BIRDS project. 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.
ZimSat-1, a nanosatellite, will deploy from the Japanese KIBO Module after nearly a year-long delay caused by Covid-19. The satellite is a 1U educational and amateur radio mission CubeSat manufactured under the Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan. Many experts consider the programme the first baby steps of the country’s fledgling space programme.
Zimbabwe National Geospatial and Space Agency (ZINGSA) coordinator, Mr Painos Gweme, told The Sunday Mail that the satellite would launch between July and August, depending on weather conditions. “Everything is now ready; we received a report recently indicating that it was tested and approved for flight. “We have our engineers in Japan who are making sure everything goes according to plan”, noted the coordinator.
Mr Gweme also remarked that ZINGSA also heightened its participation in space forums. He said this was to enhance the country’s preparedness for the programme. Regarding the importance of Zimbabwe’s space programme, Mr Gweme said, “Space science and technology present cheap, vibrant and more efficient methods which are superior to traditional ones in solving problems”. “Therefore, as a country, we had to adopt space science technologies to solve our national problems appropriately and, as such, the deployment of these technologies was long overdue.”
Since its launch, ZINGSA has developed a National Wetlands Masterplan through its Geospatial Science and Earth Observation department. The department also developed a Revised Agro-Ecological Map for Zimbabwe.
The Agency is currently conducting aerial mapping of urban settlements to identify dysfunctional, illegal and irregular settlements. So far, the programme has mapped Gimboki Farm in Mutare, Cowdray Park in Bulawayo and several others in Harare. Meanwhile, ZINGSA’s space science department is also identifying areas to deploy lightning detectors. As a result, it will help mitigate lightning strike hazards around the country.
These developments are part of the country’s plan to meet other nations and become an upper-middle-class economy by 2030. Zimbabwe’s President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, pledged more support to ZINGSA to see the growth of a technology innovation environment that supports the development and use of new technologies.