GHANA’S FIRST SATELLITE LAUNCHED TO SPACE
GhanaSat-1 is the first satellite developed by Ghanaian engineers and launched into space. 60 years after the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite into space, Ghana through a private institution known as All Nations University College became the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to launch an educational satellite, Ghanasat-1, into earth orbit on Friday 7 July 2017!
‘The Space Science Technology Laboratory of All Nations University College (ANU-SSTL), formerly known as Intelligent Space Systems Laboratory (ISSL), was established in February 2012 following a sensitization workshop held by the University. This workshop organized as part of ANU’s celebration of a decade of innovation, excellence and quality higher education, was the first of its kind in Ghana and attracted University scholars, researchers, government workers and among many others. The mission of ANU-SSTL is to promote and build human capacity in the area of Space Science and Satellite Technology through innovative research and development of educative projects to impact the society and Africa as a whole.
The CanSat project (February 2012 – May 2013)
The CANSAT project was the first establishment of an educational project in satellite technology. The CANSAT is a mock satellite with all components such as sensors, actuators and GPS housed in a 500-ml Can. The CANSAT was launched by a helium filled-gas weather balloon to an altitude of 200 meters. The CANSAT project was the first deployable satellite launched in Ghana and Sub-Saharan Africa which attracted local and international media attention all over the World. The CANSAT has served as a powerful tool with which the ANU-SSTL conduct Space Science and Satellite education through Science Technology Engineering Mathematics and Innovation (STEMI) programs in High Schools across the country.
The Amateur vhf/uhf Ground Station Project (September 2013 – September 2014)
The team went ahead to successfully design, develop, install and configure the first amateur VHF/UHF ground station in Ghana to establish communication with amateur satellites which passes over the region. The ground station was licensed under the Ministry of Communication with an authorized call sign – 9G2AA.The team was first in the history of Ghana and Sub-Saharan-Africa to successfully communicate with the International Space Station (ISS) by receiving Slow Scan Television (SSTV) imagery data in December 2014. The station located at the University campus also features the AERONET (Aerosol Robotic Network) which is a Sun photometer installed by Engineers from NASA and ANU-SSTL. The system measures the atmospheric Aerosol column over the region.
THE GHANASAT-1 PROJECT (October 2015 – January 2017)
The Ghanasat-1 project started in October 2015 and was fully sponsored by management of All Nations University. Ghanasat-1 was designed under the Birds Project which is a collaborative project initiated by the management of the Laboratory of Spacecraft Environment Interaction Engineering at Kyushu Institute of Technology (LaSEINE, Kyutech) in Japan under the directorship of Prof. Mengu Cho. Birds Project was established to provide hands-on training for students from non-space faring countries to learn about the whole satellite development process from satellite mission planning to satellite disposal. Moreover, the project also serves as catalyst to create an international human network to help develop and sustain indigenous space program in the different nations taking part in this initiative. Ghanasat-1 CubeSat was designed ,developed and tested by the three Ghanaian students from All Nations University maling use of the facilities at Kyutech . The Ghanasat-1 project started on October 2015 and completed all development phases in January 2017. The development phases of the satellite were reviewed by JAXA’s safety and management teams as well as Kyutech peers in satellite engineering to ensure that the Ghanasat-1 satisfies both launch and space environment requirements. Though the Satellite product itself costed 100,000 US dollars, the All Nations University has invested a total of about 500,000 US dollars towards its space science activities under the initiatives of the president of the University – Dr. Samuel H. Donkor. Ghanasat-1 was deployed from the International Space Station (ISS) under the JAXA/Kibo CubeSat Deployment Programme on July 7, 2017, after the successful launch of SpaceX falcon 9 Cargo Launch to the ISS on June 3, 2017 from the Kennedy LC-39A launch site at 21:07:38 UTC. Undoubtedly, 7th July 2017 remains a historical moment for Ghana. Though weighting 1000g, Ghanasat-1 with an almost 2-years lifespan in orbit.
THE BENEFIT TO THE GHANAIAN SOCIETY
The team employed a low and a high-resolution camera on board the satellite to take pictures from the coastal borders of Ghana while the satellite orbits 400km (248 miles) above the earth. This data will be useful for coastal mapping security purposes. This data will be provided to agencies and departments in Ghana who are dependent on it.
GhanaSat-1 has become a tangible tool to set a pace for Space technology by guiding young people in building human capacity. It is a vision to achieve the incorporation of this technology into Ghana high school curriculum. This can be achieved through the joint work of the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Education.
After the launch of Ghanasat-1, the team continues to educate young students through the ‘outreach program’ where they visit high school students in Ghana and use demonstrations showing how a satellite communicates: The outreach programs include the organization of the World Space Week celebration every year in which various high schools are gathered for space and satellite related educative activities. of satellite technology to the younger ones especially to those in the high schools.
The launch of the satellite sets up business to build more satellites. This will create a lot of job opportunities for the young graduates. The establishment of companies will benefit the Ghanaian society as it opens a wide range of new job positions for the locals.
As the main goal is to make Ghana a Space-faring nation, Ghanasat-1 will also contribute significantly to the scientific research. This will benefit the next missions as it will improve the various commercial satellite components and test them in Space.
FUTURE PROJECT – GHANASAT-2:
The All Nations University has already began taking steps to achieve GhanaSat-2. The GhanaSat-2 is purposed to achieve more practical missions to solve environmental issues in Ghana and her neighboring countries. The missions include;
1. Monitoring of Illegal Mining (galamsey) activities
2. Detection of Oil Spillage
3. Monitoring Forest Fires
4. Monitoring Deforestation activities
The Project was initiated at the 6th annual Space Science and Satellite Technology (SSSTA) conference held at the All Nations University in November, 22, 2017. The conference had in participation more than 30 experts both local and foreign to discuss GhanaSat-2 and its mission. Also, in attendance were experts from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) who assured the development team of necessary support in the launch of GhanaSat-2.
FUTURE OF SPACE SCIENCE AND SATELLITE TECHNOLOGY IN GHANA
The goal is to have a Ghana Space Agency in the near future. This can be achieved by first having a Nations Space policy to regulate activities in Ghana. The Ghana Space Science Technology Institution (GSSTI) is already taking appropriate measures to propose a draft, where the ANU-SSTL is one of the stakeholders contributing to the achievement of that. With the recent MOU between the GSSTI and ANUC, space activities in the country has a future. ANUC is taking steps to acquire the Assembly, Integration and Testing facilities necessary for a total development of satellite on Ghana home soil. These initiatives will materialize by the support of the government.