Consequently, the first-ever satellite being built by Ghanaian students in Japan is to be launched into space early 2017, in what is going to be a major space science technological breakthrough for the country.
The 1U Cubesat, which weighs 1000 grams, will be deployed from the International Space Station (ISS) after being lifted off from the launch pad of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) aboard the H-II transfer vehicle (Kounotori).
The successful launch is expected to boost the country’s capacity to take advantage of space science technology in the near future.
As part of its mission, the first experimental university cubesat will embark on earth imaging of Ghana via two on-board cameras and broadcast songs, including the national anthem, from space to the All Nations University Ground Station and Ham radio receivers.
The satellite, which will be launched to an altitude of 400km, will also help determine satellite precise location and measure atmospheric density.
Besides, it will also demonstrate the Ground Station’s network for cubesat constellation (NET), using amateur radio bands.
Brains behind project
The two-year project, which started in October 2015 and is billed to be completed in December 2016, is being carried out entirely by the three young students who designed it prior to assembling and testing.
After its launch, the students will operate the satellite using the All Nations University College Ground Station at Koforidua.
The trio, Benjamin Bonsu, Quansah Joseph Neenyi Kojo Krobo and Ernest Teye Matey, who are working hard to achieve the target set by Kyutech, are pursuing their Master of Science Engineering in Applied Science for Integrated System Engineering at the Kyutech in Fukuoka, Japan.
They are executing the project under the supervision of Professor Mengu Cho, the Director of Laboratory of Spacecraft Environment Interaction Engineering (LaSEINE) and three other faculty members of Kyutech.
The students, together with their team in Ghana, were the founding members of ANUC’s Space Science and Technology Laboratory (SSTL) which designed, developed and launched the university’s miniaturised Cansat on May 15, 2013.
They completed their Bachelor of Science degree in Electronics and Communications Engineering at ANUC in 2013.
In 2014, they also constructed the University’s amateur Ground Station that currently receives information from some satellites, an achievement that made the ANUC the first University in Ghana and sub-Saharan Africa to accomplish such success in space science technology.
The current satellite project follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the ANUC and Kyutech in Fukuoka, Japan, in October 2015.
The agreement is aimed at facilitating cooperation in the field of space science technology between the two institutions.
The President of ANUC, Dr Samuel H. Donkor, appended his signature on behalf of the university, while the then President of Kyutech, Dr Morio Matsunaga, signed for Kyutech.
Sharing insights into the project, Prof. Cho said the initiative was envisioned to train and motivate students from some developing countries, including Ghana, to acquire knowledge and skills to build their own satellites.
He commended the three Ghanaian students for the high level of hard work and commitment they had demonstrated towards the project, saying, “they are working hard day and night to meet their target.”
Investment in space science research
For her part, the Vice-President in charge of Academic Affairs of ANUC, Dr Carlene Kyeremeh, said as part of ANUC’s commitment to advance the knowledge of students in space engineering, the university established a Space Science and Technology Laboratory in February, 2012.
“This facility is aimed at empowering our students to design creative and innovative educative satellites and support elements for students and others in the area of space technology.
“This laboratory will also enable our students to research, design, develop and construct high performance educational miniature satellites, as well as develop nanosatellites, sub-systems and payload for experiments using cutting-edge state-of-the-art technology,” Dr Kyeremeh said.
ANUC’s future space programme
She said in a bid to advance the exploration of space science and developing space systems for the benefit of Africa, the university intended to introduce Bachelor of Science degree programmes in Space Science and Space Engineering in the future.
“We also intend to utilise the aeronet facilities provided by NASA for research projects that will offer a comprehensive training on earth observations data retrieval, acquisition and analysis, as well as undertake research collaborations on aerosol data measurements that will feature Koforidua area, and eventually Ghana and other parts of the West African sub-region,” she said.
She was optimistic that the partnership with Kyutech would see graduate students of ANUC being trained and equipped to operate and maintain Assembly Integration and Testing (AIT) facilities to be setup by ANUC in 2019.
Future SSTL building
Dr Kyeremeh also said plans were far advanced to build a modern laboratory for the University’s Space Science and Technology Laboratory, which would be completed in 2019 (SSTL).
“Our goal is to build a centre of excellence to train ANUC’s students and other researchers in practical knowledge of satellite development,” she added.
‘Experience to make a difference’
Sharing their hopes about the future, the leader of the trio, Mr Bonsu, said the opportunity offered by ANUC for them to be trained at Kyutech had equipped them with the requisite knowledge in space science technology that would enable them to come back home to make “a difference.”
“All these practical hands-on training in Japan is equipping us to come back home to contribute to national development, and we strongly believe that the three of us together with our team in Ghana can use this experience to make a difference in space science technology,” he said.
Appreciation to government
The President of ANUC, Dr Samuel Donkor, was grateful that the Government of Ghana had created an enabling environment for private universities to contribute significantly to national development.
“All Nations University College has become a cradle for developing young, talented and brilliant African minds in Ghana by equipping them for every good work,” he added.