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.
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

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs