Ugandan Satellites could soon Orbit Earth after a new intrerest by the government of Uganda to build a ground space station. In a letter dated 24th March 2021, the Minister of ICT and National Guidance inked proceedings from a Cabinet decision to have Uganda launching satellites to orbit to help in security, climate, and communication across the country.
According to the letter, Uganda will setup ground space stations to communicate with orbited satellites and leverage space since and technology for sustainable development. Also, the station will help in developing Uganda’s space capabilities in a well-coordinated and harmonized manner as the letter notes with projected benefits including:
- Increased evidence-based technology information for planning and decision making.
- Improved Space Science and Technology infrastructure to support research for industrial development of the country.
- Improved Defence and security through improved capabilities for cross border movement monitoring and surveillance.
- Increased Private Sector investment in space science, technology, research and innovation.
- Increase in Public servants (Human resource) to facilitate the development of space technology in Uganda.
As listed, the major benefit of Ugandan satellites in Orbit will be overseeing defence and security across the country and its borders. Additionally, the ground station will increase public employment with a need for specialised human resource to man satellite communications and also work hand in hand with relevant authorities to support thorough research for the country’s space development programs.
At the moment, Ugandan Satellites have not been given a set timeframe in which they will be launched, and how or when the ground space station will be built. But once the program starts, Uganda will join Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, SouthAfrica, Angola, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Morocco and Tunisia as some of the African countries with satellites orbiting the earth.
However, if compared to Kenya which lies east of the Uganda border, its space program has been active since 2012 and it launched satellites to orbit in 2018 aboard a Space X Falcon 9 Rocket. With the satellites in Orbit, the country’s main goal is to monitor general movements across the country and also predict weather patterns. By this standard, Kenya will also launch its first mini rockets in August 2021 with guidance from the Japanese Space Agency.
By cost, the Kenyan Space Agency linked the construction of their ground station to have cost KES 10Billion (Approx UGX 333 Billion ), and the launch of their satellite to orbit may have cost around USD 2 – 5 Million with Space X’s rideshare program. But with the presence of cheaper reusable rockets like Rocket lab’s electron, the cost to launch each Ugandan Satellite may range between USD 1 – 5 Million if deployed to orbit under a rideshare program.
Hence, Uganda’s efforts to launch satellites to orbit will not be any different from Kenya except that Government has not pointed at introducing space education programs at public universities to help nurture talent to oversee the ground station as it is in Kenya. As of now, the proposal to deploy Ugandan Satellites to Orbit has been approved by Cabinet Ministers, and with no clear timeframe, we can expect the proposed satellite station to be a strong ground for space development in the country.