Uganda has announced that it will launch its first satellite into the low Earth orbit from the International Space Station, in collaboration with the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) this September.
The satellite, PearlAfricaSat-1, is the latest mission from the Joint Global Multi-Nation Birds Satellite project. The project, first announced in 2019, recently took a major step forward with the approval of funding for a ground station near Kampala. The station, located at the Mpoma facility where Uganda already has two antennas, will serve as the operations and communications centre for satellites launched by the government and universities. The existing antennas are associated with Intelsat's Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean satellites.
Uganda signed a collaborative research agreement with the Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech), Japan. The agreement involved enrolling and upskilling three graduate engineers to design, build, test, and launch the first satellite for Uganda. In May 2022, the three Ugandan students, namely; Edgar Mujuni, Derick Tebusweke and Bonny Omara, completed the development work on the 10 cubic metre satellite named PearlAfricaSat-1, which was handed over to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) for final testing.
Ugandan authorities said that the ground station at Mpoma, Mukono, will receive data from the satellite, which will be used for meteorology, environmental monitoring, urban planning, mineral exploration, and disaster management, among other purposes. He said that the government has allocated UGX 274.4 billion towards advancing innovation and technological development in the country.
According to Ugandan Finance Minister, Matia Kasaija Uganda has invested significant resources to develop the technology. Local media reports that the country has committed $2 million for technology, research, and development and another $200,000 to improve infrastructure at Mpoma.
Aside PearlAfricaSat-1, another satellite might be underway in the East African country. The International University of East Africa (IUEA) submitted an application to the Uganda Communication Commission(UCC) to get approval that will enable them to build their educational satellite which would be named the Satellite One (IUEA UGA. SAT 1).
Other African countries that have rolled out space programmes include South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana, Algeria, Morocco, Ethiopia and Kenya. The 2021 edition of the Africa Space Industry Annual Report shows 125 new satellites have been lined up for development in 23 African countries by 2025, as activities in the continent’s space market heat up significantly.