Zimbabwe close to launching its first satellite after long delay

Zimbabwe close to launching its first satellite after long delay

Zimbabwe is the latest African country planning to set to launch its first satellite into orbit. Next month, or possibly in August, ZimSat-1, a nanosatellite, will be launched from the Japanese KIBO Module – Japan's science module for the International Space Station (ISS).

More precisely, this is a CubeSat, a class of miniaturized satellite based around a form factor consisting of 10 cm cubes or units. Each unit typically weighs less than 1.33 kg.

The plan is for a launch between July and August depending on weather conditions. The launch had been planned for February, but Covid-19 has caused a number of delays.

ZimSat-1 is described in some reports as a major milestone expected to enhance mineral exploration, monitoring of environmental hazards and droughts, and mapping of human settlements and disease outbreaks, among many other capabilities.

However, details of the precise projects it may support are not too clear. The TechZim site suggests it could be used for mapping to support the Zimbabwe National Geospatial and Space Agency (ZINGSA) National Wetlands Masterplan, which involves a comprehensive map of the country’s wetlands across all 10 provinces. 

The launch continues the country's recently established space programme, which began in 2018 with the launch of ZINGSA. ZimSat-1 was built by local engineers working with the Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan. It will be launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The Bulawayo 24 website says that, with ZimSat-1 in orbit, Zimbabwe will become the 14th African country to have a presence in space. The Economist newspaper has reported that at least 20 African countries now have space programmes.

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