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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Zimbabwe says ambitious satellite launch is imminent

Pretoria – Zimbabwe hopes to launch its first satellite into orbit, by November, in a programme which has reportedly been delayed by inclement weather.

The satellite will host a multispectral camera and image classification tool, as well as a device to transmit and receive signals from amateur radio operators.

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Named ZimSat-1, the Sunday Mail in Zimbabwe reported that the nanosatellite will reach the International Space Station next month before its launch into orbit, scheduled for November.

“ZimSat-1 will be on board the Cygnus NG-18, an uncrewed spacecraft that provides commercial cargo resupply to the International Space Station on behalf of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), when it is released into space in October,” the state-owned newspaper reported online.

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Zimbabwe’s ambitious satellite is reportedly scheduled to reach the International Space Station by 28 October, before being launched from the Japanese Kibo – the Asian country’s science module for the International Space Station.

ZimSat-1 was built by Zimbabwean engineers, working in collaboration with the Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is scheduled to launch it.

Three Zimbabwean scientists have been in Japan, preparing for the launch.

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Quoted in the Sunday Mail, Dr Painos Gweme, coordinator of the Zimbabwe National Geospatial and Space Agency, said the scheduled launch remains subject to the weather conditions in space and “other technical considerations”.

“The rocket will go to the International Space Station in October, then the satellite will be loaded into the Japanese Kibo module, awaiting release into space. This is usually determined by weather in space,” Gweme said.

He said once launched, Zimbabwe would “immediately” reap benefits from the satellite.

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Once launched, Zimbabwe hopes to deploy geospatial technology to manage its boundaries, calculate full mineral quantities and help telecommunications companies improve services.

Space in Africa reported that the satellite is a 1U educational and amateur radio mission CubeSat manufactured under the Kyushu Institute of Technology.

ZimSat-1 is supported by the Joint Global Multi-Nation Birds Satellite project, a multinational program which helps countries build their first satellite.

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In addition to the satellite itself, Birds supports a free app (BIRDS-NEST) with which satellite images from ZIMSAT-1 can be downloaded onto smartphones.

The development comes 23 years after South Africa launched the first African satellite, SunSat-1 in 1999. The 64kg microsatellite was built by staff and students at the University of Stellenbosch. The satellite was launched as a secondary payload on a United States launcher.

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