HARARE – Zimbabwe will launch its first satellite into orbit next in July, a major milestone that is expected to improve mineral exploration, environmental hazard and drought monitoring, human settlement and disease outbreak mapping, and many other capabilities.
ZimSat-1, a nanosatellite, will be launched by Japan’s KIBO module – the Asian country’s science module for the International Space Station (ISS) – after a nearly year-long delay caused by Covid-19.
The program is seen as the first small step in the country’s fledgling space program, launched in 2018 following the launch of the Zimbabwe National Geospatial and Space Agency (ZINGSA).
ZimSat-1 was built by local engineers in collaboration with the Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan. It is going to be launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
ZINGSA coordinator Painos Gweme said the satellite will be launched between July and August, depending on weather conditions.
He said ZINGSA has also increased its participation in space forums to improve the country’s readiness for the program.
Zimbabwe will become the 14th African country to enter space when it successfully launch its ZimSat-1 in orbit. ZimSat-1 is an Earth observation CubeSat that falls into the category of small satellites deployed by new spaceflight countries.
“Now everything is ready. We recently received a report that it has been tested and approved for flight.
“We have our engineers on site in Japan to make sure everything goes according to plan.”
Asked about the importance of Zimbabwe’s space programme, Gweme said, “Space science and technology offers cheap, dynamic and more efficient methods that are superior to traditional methods of solving problems.
“Therefore, as a country, we had to adopt space science technologies to adequately solve our national problems, and therefore the use of these technologies was long overdue.”
Since its inception, ZINGSA has reportedly developed a National Wetland Master Plan through its Division of Geospatial Science and Earth Observation. The department has also produced a Revised Agro-Ecological Map for Zimbabwe, last updated in 1960.
ZINGSA is currently conducting aerial mapping of urban settlements to identify dysfunctional, illegal and irregular settlements.
Suburbs such as Gimboki Farm in Mutare, Cowdray Park in Bulawayo and several others in Harare have been mapped so far.
Meanwhile, ZINGSA’s Space Science Division is also identifying areas where lightning detectors can be deployed to help mitigate lightning hazards across the country.
- Editor/ additional report by The Sunday Mail