Zimbabwe is set to launch its first satellite (ZimSat-1) into orbit next month making it the 14th African country to enter space.

The satellite will be expected to enhance mineral exploration, monitoring of environmental hazards and droughts, mapping human settlements and disease outbreaks, among many other capabilities.

Mr Painos Gweme, ZINGSA coordinator said that the satellite will be launched between July and August depending on weather conditions.

“Everything is now ready; we received a report recently indicating that it was tested and approved for flight. We have our engineers on the ground in Japan who are making sure everything goes according to plan.” Mr Gweme said.

The programme is considered the first baby steps of the country’s fledgling space programme, which was launched in 2018 following the launch of the Zimbabwe National Geospatial and Space Agency (ZINGSA).

ZimSat-1 was built by local engineers working with the Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan and It will be launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Meanwhile, with ZimSat-1 in orbit, Zimbabwe will become the 14th African country to enter space. ZimSat-1 is an earth observation CubeSat, which falls under the small satellites category deployed by new space-faring countries. ZINGSA is currently carrying out aerial mapping of urban settlements to identify dysfunctional, illegal and irregular settlements. To date, suburbs that include Gimboki Farm in Mutare, Cowdray Park in Bulawayo and several others in Harare have been mapped. Meanwhile, ZINGSA’s space science department is also identifying areas to deploy lightning detectors to mitigate lightning strike hazards around the country.