What is the impact of Uganda’s recently launched satellite?

by Musa Hashim Kasibante
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Uganda’s first satellite PearlAfricaSat-1, was this month deployed into the Earth’s lower orbit on Friday, December 2, 2022.

According to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, the satellite which has already reached the space station was deployed from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

This amazing and historical achievement in space technology now ranks Uganda as one of the few African, Asian, and South American countries benefiting from the Birds-5 Satellite project that was initiated in 2015 by the Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan.

A trio of Ugandan engineers namely; Derrick Tebusweke, Edgar Mujuni and Bonny Omara, recently flew back to Uganda and were in position to watch  NASA‘s televised launch that was available via TV and the internet.

According to Dr. Monica Musenero, the Minister for Science, Technology, and Innovation the Pearl AfricaSat-1 will help provide research and observation data in six primary areas; including weather forecast; land, water, and mineral mapping; agriculture monitoring; infrastructure planning; border security, and disaster prevention.

Uganda satellite  PearlAfricaSat-1
Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation Dr Monica Musenero (PHOTO/Courtesy)

The Minister also highlighted that the Pearl AfricaSat-1 is the first satellite developed by Ugandans to address climate change challenges, such as drought which has taken Uganda by surprise since the country lacks accurate data.

“The statistical data collected could help distinguish bare ground from forests and farmland and possibly indicate the quality of agricultural growth. This could help improve the livelihood of citizens of Ugandan,” says Dr. Musenero.

In November 2022, Uganda successfully launched its first ever satellite into the international space station.  This futuristic aerotech piece of equipment was constructed by three Ugandan and Japanese engineers under a multinational satellite design programme.

Uganda’s cube type satellite, PearlAfricaSat-1, was in December subsequently deployed into the low earth orbit this year.

Dr Musenero, said that the new space services that will be available in 2023 will be an enabler for the country’s economy from which numerous sectors will benefit.

“As a country, the development of PearlAfricaSat-1 presents opportunities for the development of subsequent satellites locally in Uganda, meaning our engineers and scientists will be providing practical solutions to the challenges facing the Ugandan citizens as well as boosting the country’s internal capacity to develop the space science and technology industry value chain,” Musenero noted.

Project BIRDS-5

The successful design of the Ugandan owned satellite that has been in the offing since April 2020 has been implemented under the BIRDS-5 project under which the three Ugandan engineers on the team obtained training in satellite design, manufacture and testing.

The BIRDS-5 project whose mission is to make the first steps towards creating an indigenous space programme by designing, building testing, launching and operating the first satellites for participating countries, is being implemented in collaboration with Kyushu institute of Technology in Japan, with Zimbabwe being the other African country involved.

This engineering scientific trio was tasked with developing, testing and launching Uganda’s first satellite into space.

The three Ugandan scholars will also offer specialized training on satellite development to Ugandan graduate engineers, establish Uganda’s first satellite communication network and a laboratory to facilitate knowledge transfer.

NASA receives the spacecraft 

The Ugandan satellite was recently handed over to NASA to be transported to the international space station from where it was scheduled to be launched into the low earth orbit – which unfolded in December.  

PearlAfricaSat-1 will be operated from Uganda and all its data will be analyzed and used in Uganda via a ground station.

According to the Science ministry, Uganda is also setting up an earth station at Mpoma in Mukono for command, control and management of the PearlAfricasat-1 that will be by operated by Ugandans.

This therefore implies job creation for the highly qualified citizens of this country to take on this scientific research and will subsequently improve access to data that will help in preventing disasters in the future.

This is a welcome move in the face of the emerging global warming threat of climate change.

The ministry also intimates that a team of Ugandans with the help of the Japanese trained engineers will then be tasked to install ground sensor terminals to facilitate communication to the satellite.

In addition to the timely information that will be received from the newly launched satellite, Uganda has been availed the opportunity to benefit from the services relayed by the other satellites in space which are collectively operated under the BIRDS-5 project.

Inaccurate weather predictions have in recent history caused heavy losses to farmers in Uganda, East Africa the other parts of Africa as well as the world at large.

The detrimental after effects of torrential floods that have severely dented food security, in Uganda where around 70 percent of the country’s citizens rely heavily on agriculture for their survival and livelihood.

A glimpse into Uganda’s future compels us to learn more about how other countries have used space science to their advantage and as such how this has been a catalyst to the development of their nations.

According to NASA, the aeronautics space agency defines a satellite as follows.

 “A satellite is an object that moves around a larger object. Earth is a satellite because it moves around the sun. The moon is a satellite because it moves around Earth. Earth and the moon are called “natural” satellites,” says NASA on their official website.

Most times when people are talking about “satellite,” they are talking about a “man-made” satellite. NASA defines “Man-made satellites as machines made by people. These machines are launched into space and orbit Earth or another body in space.”

The aeronautics agency states that there are thousands of man-made satellites.

Some take pictures of our planet. Some take pictures of other planets, the sun and other objects. These pictures help scientists learn about Earth, the solar system and the universe. Other satellites send TV signals and phone calls around the world.

What is the actual importance of satellites?

Satellites fly high in the sky, so they can see large areas of Earth at one time. Satellites also have a clear view of space. That’s because they fly above Earth’s clouds and air.

Before the dawn of satellites, Television or TV signals didn’t reach very far. TV signals only travel in straight lines. So they would go off into space instead of following Earth’s curve. Sometimes they would be blocked by mountains or tall buildings.

Phone calls to faraway places were also a problem back then. It costs a lot and it is hard to set up telephone wires over long distances or underwater.

With satellites, TV signals and phone calls can be sent up to a satellite. The satellite can then send them back down to different spots on Earth.

Unlocking the various parts or components of a Satellite?

According to NASA, satellites come in many shapes and sizes. But most have at least two parts in common – an antenna and a power source.

The antenna is used to send and receive information. The power source can be a solar panel or battery. Solar panels make power by turning sunlight into electricity.

Many of the satellites that NASA operates, carry cameras and scientific sensors. These have the ability to gather information about Earth’s land, air and water.  They can also be used to collect data from the solar system and the entire universe.

The origins of space science and the first satellites in space

NASA reveals that the Soviet Union was the first to launch a satellite into space. The world’s introductory satellite was launched in 1957 and was called Sputnik 1.

Since that intergalactic mission NASA has launched many other satellites into space. The first was Explorer 1 that was sent out in 1958.

Explorer was America’s first man-made satellite. The first satellite picture of Earth came from NASA’s Explorer 6 in 1959.

Understanding NASA’s use of satellites and how Uganda can adopt this

NASA satellites help scientists study all kinds of things. Satellites provide information about Earth’s clouds, oceans, land and air. They can also be used to observe wildfires, volcanoes and smoke.

All this information helps scientists predict weather and climate. It helps farmers know what crops to plant. It also helps control the spread of disease. And it helps with response to emergencies.

Satellites also tell us a lot about space. Some watch for dangerous rays coming from the sun. while some of these advanced technology spacecraft aid us to explore stars, planets, asteroids and comets.

In relation to this topic, it is important to also understand the following;

Space Shuttles are spacecraft designed for human spaceflight, like the Apollo missions, were very successful.

They were also very expensive and could not carry much cargo. They could be used only once. To outfit the ISS, NASA needed a space vehicle that was reusable.

It needed to be able to carry large pieces of equipment. The cargo might include satellites, space telescopes, or sections of a space station. The resulting spacecraft is called a space shuttle.

It is safe to say that Uganda is on the brink of a great evolution after initiating this space adventure, the sky is not the limit. https://businesstimesug.com/

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