Africa has officially entered the space race with Ghana’s first satellite, GhanaSat-1.

Engineers Benjamin Bonsu, Ernest Teye Matey, and Joseph Quansah of All Nations University College (ANUC), along with support from the Japanese Birds, worked to develop the 2.2-pound CubeSat miniature satellite. In June, the SpaceX rocket delivered the satellite to the International Space Station.

Though it was launched into space on July 7, the satellite did not become fully operational until this week.

The satellite will transmit a signal to a ground station at ANUC’s Space Systems and Technology Laboratory, where it was built.

ANUC intends to use the satellite to monitor environmental activity, as well as to educate high schoolers.

“We want to use it to integrate satellite technology into high school curriculum,” stated project manager Richard Damoah, a Ghanaian professor and assistant research scientist at NASA.

However, the satellite does not just survey. Generating power from solar cells and built-in batteries, it also uses low- and high-resolution cameras to take photos of Ghana’s coastline. The satellite will be used to measure the effects of radiation in space on microprocessors as well.

To top it off, the satellite broadcasts Ghana’s national anthem and takes song requests for playing music in space.

While Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo applauded the engineers’ achievements, he did not offer them official government support. Instead, the two-year, $500,000 project received most of its resources and training from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Japan’s Joint Global Multi-Nation Birds Satellite project supports other non-spacefaring countries as well, including Mongolia, Nigeria, and Bangladesh.

“It has opened the door for us to do a lot of activities from space,” said Damoah. Birds “also help[s] train the upcoming generation on how to apply satellites in different activities,” like monitoring illegal mining in the region.

The ANUC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons

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