In April 2020, Uganda began the path to launch its first satellite into space by sending three graduate students to obtain training in satellite design, manufacture, and testing, as part of a multinational programme known as the BIRDS-5 project. One of the requirements for their training was to develop a cube satellite which is Uganda’s first satellite named Pearl AfricaSat-1.
The BIRDS-5, which is being implemented in collaboration with the Kyushu Institute of Technology, Japan, has four key objectives. To develop, test, and launch Uganda’s first satellite into space, offer specialised training on satellite development to Ugandan graduate engineers, from mission conception and definition to satellite disposal, establish Uganda’s first satellite communications network and establish a space laboratory in Uganda, to facilitate knowledge transfer and construction of subsequent satellites to develop the Space Technology Industrial Value Chain.
Dr Monica Musenero, the Minister for Science, Technology, and Innovation, while addressing journalists at the Uganda Media Centre, Kampala said “Today is a day in the history of Uganda, as we celebrate the successful completion of Uganda’s first satellite, named PearAfricaSat-1, under the stewardship of Kyutech.” In addition to participating in developing the satellite, the students will obtain a master’s degree in Space Systems Engineering to be completed in October 2022.
PearlAfricaSat-1 is a 1U (10 cm by 10 cm by 10 cm) Cube satellite that was handed over to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on 10 May 2022 Kyutech. Thereafter, it was transported to JAXA for final tests, and will then be handed over to NASA (on 18 May 2022 for transport to the International Space Station from where it will be launched into the Lower Earth Orbit, tentatively by August 2022.
“A group of Ugandans (with the help of the students) will be tasked to install Ground Sensor Terminals (GSTs) to facilitate communication to the satellite. In addition to the information that will be received from PearAfricaSat-1, Uganda has been given an opportunity to utilize services of other satellites operated under the BIRDS project,” she added.
“ In a very special way, I would like to congratulate the President of the Republic of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni for his visionary leadership and tremendous support towards the development of Uganda’s first satellite (PearAfricaSat-1). This is an ambitious project, and the country will leverage this to develop a robust space sector. We see space services as an enabler to our economy from which numerous sectors of our country will benefit.” she stressed.
The PearlAfricaSat-1 has been specifically designed to provide research and observation data that will provide solutions in weather forecast, land, water bodies and mineral mapping, agriculture monitoring, disaster prevention, Infrastructure Planning, and Border Security.