Ghana successfully launched its first satellite into orbit around the planet on the 7th of July 2017. The satellite, GhanaSat-1 is a Cubesat type satellite which was developed by students at All Nations University in Koforidua, Ghana. The satellite was sent into orbit from the Japanese Kibo module of the International Space Station. The satellite will be used to monitor the Ghanaian coastline and would also help abate illegal mining activities in the country. It is also fitted with a device which will make it possible to broadcast the country’s national anthem and other independence songs from space (sweet!).
- It has low and high-resolution cameras on board and is expected to orbit 400km (248 miles) above the earth.
- It will be used to monitor Ghana’s coastline for mapping purposes and to collect data in that respect.
- The launch was made possible with Japanese collaboration. It was a 2-year project that cost $50,000 in collaboration with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
- It has a weight of 1kg and was one of five microsatellites launched.
Satellites are a critical component of Earth observation and have already proved useful in Nigeria. In 2014, satellites proved useful in the fight against extremist group, Boko Haram. Nigeria used its SatX and Sat 2 to monitor the group’s movements and to help find the 273 girls it had abducted.
Nigeria and South Africa have increasingly robust space programs in Africa.
South Africa is utilising earth observation satellite capability to do human settlement mapping. This helps provide useful data for service delivery projects and town planning. The South African Space Agency (SANSA) is the largest space agency in southern Africa and frequently provides disaster monitoring and post-disaster assessment for the region. Fires and floods are the most common natural disasters. It also monitors space weather effects and forecasts, which are crucial for aviation.
Kenya, Algeria, Angola, Sudan and Egypt also have space programs with Sudan and Egypt, just like South Africa having their own military satellites.
Satellites for internet connectivity
Satellites can help bring internet connectivity to rural Africa where hundreds of millions of people live. A comprehensive African Union space program could help bring massive socio-economic benefits to vast rural African populations. Facebook has already launched similar services in more than 20 countries through its internet.org initiative.