ZIMBABWE’s first satellite launch into space, which was scheduled for yesterday, has been postponed until today due to a fire alarm at the control building where the deployment was to take place.
The satellites, ZimSat-1 and PearlAfricaSat-1, are both 1U CubeSats and will be launched into space as part of the BIRDS-5 constellation, which also includes a 2U CubeSat from Japan. Generally, the satellites will be launched as beneficiaries of the Joint Global Multi-Nations Birds Satellite project, an initiative of the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) and the Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech).
The launch will take place at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport aboard Northrop Grumman Commercial Cargo Resupply Services (NG-18 Cygnus) to the International Space Station (ISS) on behalf of The NASA. Once the ISS receives the satellites, it will deploy them into orbit later.
BIRDS-5 will perform multispectral observations of the Earth using a commercially available camera and demonstrate a high-energy electronic measuring instrument. The statistical data it collects will help distinguish bare soil from forest and farmland and eventually indicate the quality of agricultural growth. As a result, it can help improve the livelihoods of Ugandan and Zimbabwean citizens.
A cross-border university project, BIRDS provides students in developing countries with hands-on satellite development, laying the foundation for similar space technology projects in their home countries that could ultimately lead to sustainable space programs there. Students from participating countries enroll in the Kyushu Institute of Technology Graduate School of Engineering as masters or doctoral students in the Space Engineering International course to execute this project.
The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was due to launch the rocket at 12 p.m. before an emergency alarm forced the postponement.
Another test will take place today from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. It will be broadcast live on NASA TV and the agency’s website, as well as on YouTube, Twitter and the NASA app.
Once launched, Zimbabwe will join the world’s elite nations, which have occupied the International Space Station.
The launch is expected to improve national planning of key projects.
Zimbabwe’s satellite, ZimSat-1, is expected to improve weather forecasting in the country, which in turn should help the agricultural sector, in particular.
It is also an important step that will improve mineral exploration and monitoring of environmental hazards and droughts. Additionally, it will help map human settlements and epidemics, among other capabilities. ZimSat-1, a nanosatellite, will be deployed from the Japanese KIBO module.
The satellite is a 1U educational and amateur radio mission CubeSat manufactured by the Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan.
The launch of ZimSat-1 is the culmination of a process that began in 2018 when President Mnangagwa launched the Zimbabwe National Geospatial and Space Agency (ZINGSA).
This is part of the government’s efforts to leapfrog towards development while aiming for an upper-middle-income economy by 2030
ZimSat-1 is supported by Japan through the Japanese KIBO module. ZINGSA Coordinator, Mr. Painos Gweme, said delays in the launch are a normal thing as the deployment of the satellite is affected by environmental issues.
“There will be something happening in the atmosphere and whatever changes will affect the flow of that thing. What happened is completely normal and it can happen tomorrow,” he said.
Mr Gweme said Zimbabwe is working with Japan to launch the satellite and the Asian giant is the one in direct contact with NASA on developments related to the launch of ZimSat-1.
“But we really know that the launches are like that, they can change the date. The launch takes place in two phases and that of a rocket docked at the international space station can last three to four weeks to prepare the satellite for deployment in space and there may be other delays that may also be encountered,” Mr. Gweme said.
The launch of the rocket will be followed by the provisional deployment of the satellite on November 21. He said the planned launch of ZimSat-1 comes with skill development for the country.
Thanks to its quality human capital, the country should be able to manufacture, assemble and test satellites.
Information and communication technology expert, Mr. Robert Ndlovu, described the planned launch as a milestone that will improve weather and environmental issues.
“This micro-satellite is intended for geospatial data. It will be used for weather monitoring. It could provide information about the weather every minute so that after a while they analyze that data and be able to make a classification of the rain,” Mr Ndlovu said.
“They will be able to see the signs of deforestation over time, they will be able to access the effects of mining on the land. It’s more on the environmental side of things in light of what we call global warming. It’s a pretty big project. »
He said the ZimSat-1 had drawn negative comments from some citizens as they did not understand its importance.
“Maybe some of them thought it was going to study the stars, no, it’s focused on the ground. It’s focused on temperatures, trees, etc. In short, it’s going to provide a system of geographic information (GIS) for accurate mapping. At present the Google mapping that we use is not as clear as it is far from Zimbabwe,” he said.
Ndlovu said satellite data must be linked to other national development programs for it to be effective. For example, he said, rainfall information should inform agronomic practices in the country while assessing land degradation over time.
Asked why NASA was helping Zimbabwe, among other countries, launch satellites, an unidentified NASA official said the project was being spearheaded by Japan to help others countries to join the International Space Station. Uganda also launches at the same time as Zimbabwe.
“The Japanese Exploration Agency has a program called the Birds program and this is the fifth such mission and the purpose of this program is to help non-space nations take their first step into space,” said said the manager.
“It’s a great program and these students working on it are very enthusiastic and it’s just a great way to engage them in space life.” –