2 African Teenagers Build First Private Satellite to be Launched by Africa in 2017
Africa is set to launch its first private satellite into space this May 2017, courtesy of the design from two teenage girls from Cape Town, South Africa. Brittany Bull and Sesam Mngqengqiswa, high schoolers from Cape Town, have designed and built payloads for such a satellite that will orbit over the planet's poles and scan Africa's surface.
According to CNN, Mngqengqiswa said she wants to experience discovering space and seeing Earth's atmosphere, something she said not a lot of black Africans are able to do. She added she wants to show fellow girls that they don't need to "sit around or limit [them]selves."
The two are being mentored by satellite engineers from Cape Peninsula University of Technology as part of one of the several programs that are encouraging young women to pursue careers in the STEM fields.
It is also part of South Africa's Meta Economic Development Organization.Trials now involve the two girls programming and launching small satellites using high-altitude weather balloons that can collect thermal imaging data, which was interpreted for early flood and drought detection.
According to Outer Places, the satellite launch is not just symbolic but crucial as well. It will be tasked to collect information on agriculture and food security within the continent, as information to be received from the satellite twice a day will go towards disaster prevention.
An El Nino-induced drought this April 2016 has led to a shortfall of 9.3-million tons of Southern Africa's maize production, and the continent is expected to import between 3-million and 4-million tonnes of maize to meet the shortfall this year.
This is just one among many strides of Africa towards space travel. Other projects include South Africa's Square Kilometer Array project that aims to build the world's biggest radio telescope in the hopes of giving more detailed views of some of space's farthest reaches.