Rwanda’s satellite to be launched into orbit next month
A satellite built by three Rwandan engineers and a team of Japanese at Tokyo University, Japan will be launched into orbit next month.
Known as RWASAT-1 in technical terms, the satellite was launched to the International Space Station on September 24.
This was revealed on Tuesday at a joint press conference between the Rwanda Utility and Regulatory Authority (RURA), the Ministry of ICT & Innovation, and the Japanese Embassy.
Patrick Nyirishema, RURA Director-General, said they were “looking at November 18” for the launch into orbit.
The rocket carrying the first satellite was launched from the Tanegashima Space Centre by the Japanese Aerospace and Exploration Agency (JAXA).
According to Takayoshi Fukuyo, one of the developers, the HTV-8 “Koutonori 8”, a cargo ship which stores RWASAT-1 was captured by the robotic arm of the International Space Station on September 28.
RWASAT-1 is a mini satellite, commonly as CubeSats. These are tiny satellites that are deployed into low earth orbit from where they can send information to ground stations.
Paula Ingabire, the Minister for ICT and Innovation said that since Rwanda entered into a partnership with Tokyo University, a number of Rwandans have benefitted.
“Since we signed the agreement with the University of Tokyo, it has opened doors to Rwandan engineers to use their laboratories for assembly, integration, and testing of RWASAT-1,” she noted.
One year down the road, about 50 Rwandan engineers have been trained in space technologies.
“Rwanda is new on this journey of lean space technology, but we chose to build capacities on this initial journey,” Nyirishema noted.
A model of the satellite prototype was first displayed last year by the Japan-Rwanda team of experts during the 2018 Transform Africa Summit in Kigali.
Less than 10 African countries have managed to launch satellites. However, as the devices get smaller and more affordable, more African countries are planning to take advantage of data from the satellites.
The country is hoping to reap significant benefits from having its own satellite into space and there are endless possibilities and applications.
“In the past, satellite technology was in bulk satellites that cost hundreds of millions of dollars. We are now going into a time where it’s possible to build low-cost satellites that can achieve many applications,” Nyirishema.
Officials say having a satellite, which is part of the bigger National Space Programme, will equally bring down the cost of data.
In the initial stages, the country wants to leverage the satellite to promote precision agriculture.
From the orbit, RWASAT-1 will be sending information to ground stations, which Agriculture institutions will utilize to make informed decisions in the prediction of crop yields as well as soil moisture monitoring.
RWASAT-1 has antennas alongside two multi-spectral cameras onboard which will be communicating with deployed ground sensors in Rwanda.
In February this year, OneWeb, a UK based company, worked with Rwanda to unveil a satellite that provides broadband internet to schools in remote areas.