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Africa Enters Space Race With Ghana’s First Satellite Now Orbiting Our Planet

8 August 2017, 10:46 am EDT By Katrina Pascual Tech Times
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Ghana’s first satellite, the GhanaSat-1, has recently started to orbit around Earth.

Launched into space back in June, the cubesat is now operational and heralds Africa’s entry into the space race.

Details Of Historic Mission

The satellite was built by a team of engineers at the country’s All Nations University. It was sent to the International Space Station back in June onboard a SpaceX rocket, and blasted into orbit from the outpost in July.

The GhanaSat-1 has a twin mission.

“It has cameras on board for detailed monitoring of the coastlines of Ghana,” Richard Damoah, project manager and NASA assistant research scientist, told TechCrunch. “Then there’s an educational piece―we want to use it to integrate satellite technology into high school curriculum.”

The satellite, the end product of a two-year project costing $500,000, will transmit a signal to the university space and technology laboratory’s ground station, where it was also created by a team of engineers including Benjamin Bonsu, Joseph Quansah, and Ernest Teye Matey.

Significance And Prospects

Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo sent his congratulations to the team for their recent feat, but the initiative did not get official government support. Instead, Japan’s space agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), offered the training and resources necessary for the satellite development.

The satellite’s deployment marked the growing interest in Africa to join space exploration. Nigeria’s first cubesat, for instance, also launched on the same mission, while Angola has expressed an intent to launch a satellite in the coming year.

Ghana is one of the non-spacefaring nations supported by Japan’s satellite project, joining Mongolia, Bangladesh, and Nigeria.

Today, the 2.2-pound GhanaSat-1 produces power from solar cells as well as built-in batteries. It broadcasts the country’s national anthem and accommodates song requests for playing in space when its cameras are not snapping images of the nation’s coastline for monitoring.

The goal now is to train the upcoming generation to apply satellite technology in various activities around the region, Damoah said in a BBC report. It will, for example, allow them a closer look at illegal mining activities.

Damoah is confident that GhanaSat-1’s launch could catalyze government support for a second satellite program. GhanaSat-2 is planned to house high-resolution cameras that seek to capture a glimpse of things like illegal mining in the African nation.

Last May, NASA launched the smallest satellite aboard a rocket from its Wallop Island facility. The 3D-printed KalamSat, just 1.5 inches in size and weighing 2.25 ounces, was the brainchild of Indian teen Rifath Sharook using lightweight carbon fiber.

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