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Africa Enters Space Race With Ghana’s First Satellite

Africa has entered the space race: Ghana’s first satellite, launched into space in June, is now operational.

The CubeSat miniaturized satellite, dubbed GhanaSat-1, was built by at All Nations University College (ANUC), with support from the Japanese Birds program.

Delivered via SpaceX rocket to NASA’s International Space Station in June, the satellite was released into the cosmos on July 7.

Its two-fold mission includes monitoring environmental activity along Ghana’s coast and serving as an educational tool.

“We want to use it to integrate satellite technology into high school curriculum,” project manager Richard Damoah, a Ghanaian professor and assistant research scientist at NASA, told TechCrunch.

Ghana-Sat 1 will transmit a signal to a ground station at ANUC’s Space Systems and Technology Laboratory—where the satellite was initially developed by engineers Benjamin Bonsu, Ernest Teye Matey, and Joseph Quansah.

The engineers behind GhanaSat-1 (via ANUC)

While the satellite did not receive official Ghanaian government support, President Nana Akufo-Addo lauded the local scientists‘ efforts and achievements.

Instead, TechCrunch reported, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) came to Ghana’s aid, providing most of the resources and training required for the two-year, $500,000 project.

Ghana is one of a handful of non-spacefaring countries—including Mongolia, Nigeria, and Bangladesh—supported by Japan’s Joint Global Multi-Nation Birds Satellite project.

“It has opened the door for us to do a lot of activities from space,” Damoah told the BBC. Birds “also help[s] train the upcoming generation on how to apply satellites in different activities,” like monitoring illegal mining in the region, he added.

The 2.2-pound GhanaSat-1, which generates power from solar cells and built-in batteries, does more than survey: Low- and high-resolution cameras allow it to snap photos of the country’s coastline. But it also broadcasts Ghana’s national anthem and takes song requests for play in space.

The satellite, meanwhile, will be used to measure the effects of radiation in space on commercial microprocessors.

Neither NASA nor ANUC immediately responded to Geek’s request for comment.