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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs