Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Satellite (ZimSat-1) which was yesterday successfully launched to the international space station was fully developed by three Zimbabweans who were studying in Japan.
Zimbabwe yesterday joined some of the elite nations that have successfully launched rockets to the international space station.
The groundbreaking development is expected to have far-reaching effects as far as national development is concerned.
Zimbabwe was initially supposed to launch a rocket into space on Sunday but the exercise was postponed to yesterday following a fire alert warning in the control building where the deployment was supposed to take place in America.
ZimSat-1 was launched following the country’s collaboration with Japan through the Kyushu Institute of Technology.
ZimSat-1, a nano satellite, will deploy from the Japanese KIBO Module after a long delay caused by Covid-19.
The satellite is a 1U educational and amateur radio mission CubeSat manufactured under the Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan.
America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) superintended over the launch of Zimbabwe’s rocket into space. The launch was beamed live on NASA social media platforms.
Zimbabwe is expected to obtain multiple benefits from the deployment of the satellite into space and these include improved weather predictions in the country, which in turn is expected to boost the agricultural sector.
It is also a milestone that will enhance mineral exploration and monitoring of environmental hazards and droughts. Additionally, it will aid in mapping human settlements and disease outbreaks among other capabilities.
The launch of ZimSat-1 follows Government’s launch of Zimbabwe National Geospatial and Space Agency (ZINGSA) in 2018 by President Mnangagwa.
It is part of Government’s efforts to leapfrog development while aiming for an upper middle-income economy by 2030.
President Mnangagwa pledged more support to ZINGSA which is spearheading growth of technology innovations.
Since its launch, ZINGSA has developed a National Wetlands Master plan through its Geospatial Science and Earth Observation department. The department also developed a Revised Agro-Ecological Map for Zimbabwe.
Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Permanent Secretary Professor Fanuel Tagwira said the ZimSat-1 launch underpins the national thrust of using technology and innovation to develop the country. He said three Zimbabweans, one of them studying towards a doctorate and two others towards masters’ degree programmes, were involved in the development of ZimSat-1.
“It (the launch) is significant and what is more significant for us is that this particular satellite has been developed by our own people undergoing training at Kyushu Institute of Technology,” said Prof Tagwira.
“We sent three Zimbabweans to Japan to go and learn about satellite technology, one of them at PhD level and two of them at Masters level. Part of their study was to produce a satellite for the country.”
Prof Tagwira said the Zimbabwean human capital ability is being shown at a global level through the satellite launch and is benefiting other nations. He said it is a great achievement for Zimbabwe to be able to develop a satellite which is key to national development.
“These are the first baby steps towards a fully fledged satellite centre. Remember that is part of our National Development Strategy 1, which entails that our economy must be innovation led and knowledge driven,” said Prof Tagwira.
He said since the country is moving towards a knowledge driven economy, the satellite will provide relevant data which will guide decision makers. Prof Tagwira said the data obtained from the satellite should assist the national geospatial mapping.
“This is important for the purposes of mapping our environment and being able to keep track on what is happening to the environment, our land and rivers. It is also going to be used in agriculture, we will also want to make crop yield estimates through data hence it will be a source of information,” he said.
Prof Tagwira said yesterday’s launch is the first step before the satellite is deployed into space.
“When Minister Mthuli (Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Ncube) said we are building a satellite, people laughed off because they thought that was not going to happen. The Second Republic is walking the talk and that is exactly what has happened,” he said.
Information Communication Technology expert Mr Robert Ndlovu said the satellite will be focusing on Zimbabwe.
He said the ZimSat-1 has drawn negative comments from some citizens due to lack understanding on its importance.
“Maybe some of them thought that it is going to study stars yet it is focusing on the ground. It is focusing on temperatures, trees and so forth,” said Mr Ndlovu.
“In short it is going to provide geographic information system (GIS) for accurate mapping. Right now, the Google mapping that we are using is not as clear because it is far from Zimbabwe.”