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BY Mildred Europa Taylor, 5:00pm February 11, 2019,

Africa’s first private space satellite to be launched in 2019 thanks to these girls

A group of South African girls at a training camp. Pic credit: MEDO Facebook

Drought and environmental effects from climate change remain one of the main challenges of the African continent. Africa’s first private space satellite to be launched in 2019.

In recent years, the situation has been worse in many areas in Southern Africa with at last eight of South Africa’s provinces requiring regular food relief and water when the country recorded its worst drought in history.

Farmers in the region have not been spared as they lose their crops and livelihood. This is evidenced in the drop in Southern Africa’s maize production by 9.3 million tons when the El Niño occurred in 2016.

Many have already blamed this on the rise in population growth and the alleged failure of the local government to tackle the problem.

The situation is, however, set to improve as South Africa prepares to launch the continent’s first private satellite into space in March, 2019.

The satellite, thanks to a team of high school girls from Cape Town, South Africa, will contribute to better predictions and preparations for changing weather patterns, reports South African media, TimesLIVE.

Africa's first private space satellite to be launched in 2019 thanks to these girls
Girls study launch procedure during a boot camp session in Cape Town, South Africa. Pic credit: Deccan Chronicle

The satellite will also collect information on agriculture and food security within the continent once in space, according to a CNN report.

Using the data transmitted, “we can try to determine and predict the problems Africa will be facing in the future…Where our food is growing, where we can plant more trees and vegetation and also how we can monitor remote areas,” Brittany Bull, a 19-year-old student at Pelican Park High School told the CNN.

Bull is part of a group of enterprising students who participated in a week-long science camp to learn about space technology, hosted by South Africa’s Meta Economic Development Organisation (MEDO).

Africa's first private space satellite to be launched in 2019 thanks to these girls
Brittany Bull. Pic credit: Coloured Kleurling

According to TimesLIVE, satellite engineers from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology taught the learners to design and build payloads (the technology within satellites that enables communication and transmits information to the ground).

The girls participated in trials “to launch small satellites into the atmosphere using high-altitude weather balloons which provide insight that assists with disaster prevention particularly with regard to droughts, wildfires and flooding.”

“We have a lot of forest fires and floods but we don’t always get out there in time,” Bull said.

In effect, information will be received twice a day and that will help disaster prevention. A successful launch will make MEDO the first private company in Africa to build a satellite and send it into orbit.

For 18-year-old Sesam Mngqengqiswa, she and her team “expect to receive a good signal which will allow us to receive reliable data.”

“In South Africa, we have experienced some of the worst floods and droughts and it has really affected the farmers very badly.

“It has caused our economy to drop … This is a way of looking at how we can boost our economy,” Mngqengqiswa added.

Africa's first private space satellite to be launched in 2019 thanks to these girls
Some of the girls in camp. Pic credit: Interesting Engineering

The girls, as part of the training, also conducted tests that involved “collecting thermal imaging data which are then interpreted for early flood or drought detection.”

“It’s a new field for us [in Africa] but I think with it we would be able to make positive changes to our economy,” an optimistic Mngqengqiswa said.

The MEDO project is aimed at inspiring more African women into STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), particularly, astronomy.

It is expected to include girls from other African countries such as Kenya, Rwanda, Malawi and Namibia.

Last Edited by:Victor Ativie Updated: March 27, 2020


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