News / Science & Technology

Ghana’s Home-Grown Space Program Takes Off

Students use a balloon to launch Deployable CanSat, a soda-can sized model of a satellite, All Nations University, Koforidua, Ghana, May 15, 2013.
Students use a balloon to launch Deployable CanSat, a soda-can sized model of a satellite, All Nations University, Koforidua, Ghana, May 15, 2013.
In a small laboratory on the ground floor of a university 80 kilometers north of Accra, students practice counting down for the launch of their model satellite.
 
Later that same afternoon, the so-called CanSat, which is scarcely larger than a can of Coke, climbed nearly 200 meters into the overcast mid-May sky. While successfully launching the miniature device is but a small step toward establishing Ghana's foothold in the heavens, nearby posters of Japanese and American spacecraft on the lab’s lime green walls suggest the true size of the students’ ambitions.
 
Students prepare to launch a soda-can sized satellite, at All Nations University, Koforidua, Ghana, May 15, 2013.Students prepare to launch a soda-can sized satellite, at All Nations University, Koforidua, Ghana, May 15, 2013.
x
Students prepare to launch a soda-can sized satellite, at All Nations University, Koforidua, Ghana, May 15, 2013.
Students prepare to launch a soda-can sized satellite, at All Nations University, Koforidua, Ghana, May 15, 2013.
Their dream of putting large-scale satellites into orbit is shared by Ghana’s government, which launched a national space program just over a year ago. But unlike African countries such as Nigeria that have received foreign help in developing satellites, Ghana is taking a home-grown approach.
 
Officials hope to have an observational satellite in orbit within five years. In order to ensure a strong program over the long term, they need to educate more students with a passion for space.
 
That’s why the head of the national space agency, Dr. Prosper Kofi Ashilevi, attended the launch of the model satellite, held on the campus of All Nations University in the town of Koforidua.
 
“One of our core businesses is to develop a human resource base for the space industry," he said. "If an education institution like this, a private institution like All Nations, has taken that bold step to go and do this — to train undergraduates, to train non-scientists for the industry — you know it’s very much welcome. Because we need the base, the human resource base, to go higher up.”
 
Students at All Nations spent several months working on the model satellite, coming into the lab after class and sometimes staying until just before dawn.
 
Though they initially hoped to launch the model satellite using a rocket, they were unable to get permission to import one. So instead, at just after 1 p.m. on launch day, they attached the CanSat to a bright yellow balloon, hoisting it up into the air using rope and letting it slowly fall down to earth with the help of a parachute, achieving a maximum height of 165 meters.
 
While only one of the two launch attempts was successful, the satellite did collect readable data, accomplishing the group's primary objective. As a cheering crowd looked on, the director of the lab read out temperature and air pressure readings and projected images taken by CanSat on a screen.
 
Aiding development

While some question Ghana's need for satellite technology and a space program — especially as data collected from satellites can be purchased from countries and agencies already using the technology — government officials emphasize satellite technology's ability to aid in predicting weather and natural disasters, and in monitoring natural resources.
 
Aaron Yankey, the 26-year-old systems engineer on the project, said he was glad to be part of something that could aid in the country’s development.
 
“The world is becoming more unstable — global warming and all that — so we need more sophisticated systems to monitor and predict things," he said. "I think it is very important for Ghana because Ghana is in a strategic point, economically and geopolitically, within the region. We need such things to be able to compete.”
 
But Samuel Donkor, president of All Nations University, says he has been questioned repeatedly on why he supports the program for students, which has so far cost the university $50,000.
 
“Why should we be thinking about going into space when we have basic fundamental issues with the economy and standard of living? These are some of the questions they ask," he said. "They wonder why anybody would even think of it when we can’t get a stable power supply in the country."
 
Despite the skepticism, he says the university will continue to support the satellite program.
 
Students say they hope to cast CanSat into orbit within two years.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Alyssa Davis from: U.S.A.
June 24, 2013 12:22 PM
Glad to see other countries getting involved with space and space programs. SpaceUnited helps teach students by using hands-on technology.
Alyssa Davis,Content Writer SpaceUnited

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
June 22, 2013 10:59 AM
Truly a giant stride. Giant strides are made by giants, not midgets, not average heights who look at their shadows to think of how tall they are. Ghana has taken much of the strides in Africa that its growth seems to be the growth of all Africa. I can remember a few years in the past Ghana depended so much on Nigeria to gainfully engage its younger population. Then Ghana's currency was like mere sand on seashore in Africa and the CFA zone. But somebody stood up and said enough is enough, and took a giant stride to strike out corruption in government. And thereafter, Ghana has grown in leaps and bounds; its economy much stronger than that of those who once harbored it; its currency now gold. It's not a big surprise if Ghana gets there within two years. Instead it will be such a delight. Then Ghana will be the true giant of Africa, as with the stride comes much economic liberation of the people.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs