Two nanosatellites, ZimSat-1 and Pearl AfricaSat-1, built by Zimbabwean and Ugandan engineers respectively, have been launched into space by NASA 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.
Zimbabwe’s satellite, ZimSat-1 was assembled by three of the country’s scientists who were supported and trained in Japan. While Uganda’s satellite, the PearlAfricaSat-1 was also built by three of its own country’s aerospace engineers. It is expected that Uganda will set up its own command station to manage the satellite within the country.
The launch of the first satellites in Zimbabwe and Uganda is part of the BIRDS-5 joint global project with multi-national participation.
The launch was initially scheduled for Sunday, November 6, 2022, and scrubbed due to a fire alarm at the launch site. It 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 will help support research, disaster prevention, weather forecasting, as well as monitoring border security.
The Birds Satellite (BIRDS) Project was initiated in 2015 by the Kyushu Institute of Technology, Japan with the help of over ten partner institutions. It was envisioned by Dr. Mengu Cho, Professor at Kyutech, who became Principal Investigator for the Project. The purpose of the project is to train students in developing countries to help launch and steer their nations’ space programs.