Zimbabwe and Uganda have finalised preparations to launch their respective first satellites into space on 6 November 2022. The satellites, ZimSat-1, and PearlAfricaSat-1, are both 1U CubeSats and will launch into space as part of the BIRDS-5 constellation, which also includes a 2U CubeSat from Japan. Generally, the satellites will launch as beneficiaries of the Joint Global Multi-Nations Birds Satellite project, an initiative of the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) and the Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech).
The launch will occur at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility aboard the Northrop Grumman (NG-18 Cygnus) commercial cargo resupply services to the International Space Station (ISS) on behalf of NASA. After the ISS receives the satellites, it will deploy them into orbit later.
BIRDS-5 will perform multispectral observations of Earth using a commercial off-the-shelf camera and demonstrate a high-energy electronic measuring instrument. The statistical data it collects will help distinguish bare ground from forest and farmland and possibly indicate the quality of agricultural growth. As a result, it may help improve the livelihood of the citizens of Uganda and Zimbabwe.
A cross-border University project, BIRDS provides students from developing nations with hands-on satellite development, laying a foundation for similar space technology projects in their home countries that ultimately could lead to sustainable space programs there. Students from participating nations enroll in the Graduate school of Engineering of the Kyushu Institute of Technology as Master’s or Doctoral degree students in the Space Engineering International course to execute this project.