Uganda’s Satellite Successfully Launched

Monday 7th November at exactly 1333hrs East African time, Uganda’s first-ever satellite surveillance system blasted off into space from the NASA station at Wallop Island, Virginia, USA. 

The satellite dubbed Pearl Africa Sat-1, has been built by three Ugandan engineers, Bonny Omara 35, Edgar Mujuni, 30, and Derrick Tebusweke 29 with help from the Japanese Kyushu Institute of Technology, and has been in development since 2020.

Till today, Pearl Africa Sat-1’s launch had been postponed three times, in September and October due to unfavorable weather conditions, and yesterday due to the fire alarm that went off at the last minute as the rocket transporting it was ready to take off. 

Bony Omara one of the engineers who developed the satellite, says that what happened yesterday is a technical problem which happens whenever the system detects a challenge, and that under such circumstances the rocket can’t proceed as it was witnessed yesterday. 

According to Omara, it has taken the team 18 months to develop this satellite, and had to hit the 2022 deadline of its launch as government had set. He adds that this satellite was built to gather information about soil fertility and land title digitization.

Omara says it will take up to 15 hours for Pearl Africa Sat-1 to reach the international space station where it will be deployed after three weeks of observing its operating conditions, and positioning it properly.

This satellite which will remain afloat in the orbit for its operations has a life span of 4 to 5 years, Omara says, adding that it is directly connected to its earth station where it will send its images through wireless transmission similar to cell phone connectivity.

According to Omara, Pearl Africa Sat-1 will be posting information as commanded by the operators at the earth station which is in Mpooma, Mukono district, and will be sending data depending on request. He adds that it will be operated four times a day, with every operation lasting two hours.

Monica Musenero, Uganda’s minister for science, technology and innovation, says that now that the satellite has taken off to the space, the next task is to prepare the earth station so that it is ready to receive the information.

According to Musenero, this is the time for the government to develop a work plan for the operations of this satellite, “We have to make sure that the structure of the program how it is going to be beneficial is set, because we have a lot of components like those of security and civil and all these have to be streamlined,” she says.

Musenero adds that this satellite is going to be a revenue source to the Ugandan government through selling of information, and a business plan in this line has to be structured as well.

According to the minister, very soon the government plans to put another satellite in the space.

“If all goes well, within 18 months we should have put a bigger satellite into the orbit, so before even this one’s life span is done, we will have another” Musenero explains.

Without figures, Musenero stated that development of this satellite to this level, has been entirely funded by the Ugandan government, adding that the country has moved out of this experience with a number of skilled personnel who will help in developments of many other sectors related to what has been launched today.

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