The country’s first-ever satellite – ZimSat-1 – will begin its historic journey into space at around 11.30am today in a development that is likely to herald multiple benefits for the country’s development drive.
The launch is a culmination of a process that began in 2018, when President Mnangagwa launched the Zimbabwe National Geospatial and Space Agency (ZINGSA). It is envisaged that the satellite will help in land, water and mineral mapping, including weather forecasting, infrastructure planning, border security and disaster prevention.
ZimSat-1 will start its journey into space through a spacecraft, the Northrop Grumman (NG-18 Cygnus), which will lift off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, US. NG-18 Cygnus spacecraft is a commercial cargo re-supply service to the International Space Station (ISS) and carries satellites on behalf of NASA.
ZINGSA coordinator, Dr Painos Gweme, told our Bulawayo Bureau that the rocket will be leaving earth to the International Space Station today. “The actual deployment of ZimSat-1 into space will be through the Japanese module.
“It is going to be deployed in the KIBO module; it happens two or three weeks after launch (today) and we have scheduled it for November 21,” he said, adding that the schedule depends on changes in weather patterns.
The latest development, Dr Gweme said, will help to modernise the country in line with the country’s development aspirations. “This has a multi-sectoral camera, which has a remote standing camera that we are going to use primarily for agricultural application, crop yield estimation, land cover and land use.
“We can see our forestry and the changeover time because it has what we call a store-and-forward mission as part of the pilot which we are going to use together with the ground centre terminal.”
Three Zimbabwean scientists have since been trained in space exploration and are in charge of the satellite launch programme.
Since its launch, ZINGSA has developed a National Wetlands Masterplan through its Geospatial Science and Earth Observation Department.