THE launch of Zimbabwe’s first satellite, carried on a spacecraft called the Northrop Grumman (NG-18 Cygnus), has been postponed to today due to reports of a fire in the control room building.

The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation reported yesterday afternoon that the highly publicised mission would be attempted again today.

If all goes well, the satellite will take off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (Nasa) Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island in Virginia, in the United States of America.

Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, Zimbabwe National Geospatial and Space Agency (Zingsa) coordinator Painos Gweme said the launch will be in two phases.

 “The launch is in two phases, the first is leaving the earth to the international space station  (ISS) and the other one is the release from the international space station (ISS) into space.

“The one which was to happen today (yesterday) was just a rocket carrying the Zimsat-1 into the ISS.

“It has been postponed to tomorrow (today) at the same time (1130), so if it goes ahead we will start counting down to the real deployment into orbit,” Gweme said.

“The technicians said it’s an alarm, it is something technical. For a rocket to leave, there are quite a number of issues, they check on space weather because in space there are quite a number of interactions of gases and others.

“If they see that the space is favourable, they can launch, but if it is not favourable, then they can postpone.

“It is something that is normally done, the alarm sounded before it took off then everything will be stopped to see if the gases are not enough or, for example, the hydrogen is not enough. It is quite technical to explain,” Gweme told the Daily News further.
 He indicated that a Zimba

bwe trio was sent to the US to learn how to manufacture, assemble, integrate and launch a satellite and it would be controlled and monitored from Mazowe for a duration of three years.

 “So we sent three of them some two years ago so that they can bring the technology and knowledge back home so that we can manufacture and launch a satellite from our own country.

“The satellite has quite a number of missions, we have over eight missions, it has got a multi-sectoral camera which is going to take photos and these images will be used to check the crop situations at any given time, land coverage and land use in the country in relation to other areas within Africa and also the international space.

 “It has a store for admission where we put ground sensors on selected specific areas across the country and these centres will record temperature, humidity and this information will be downloaded and analysed.

 “If it goes to space today, provisionally we said 21 November is the release of Zimstat-1 into space  and subject to change  because of weather changes  and some other  factors into the international space station,” Gweme added.

Zimbabwe and Uganda were scheduled to launch their respective first satellites, ZimSat-1 and PearlAfricaSat-1, into space yesterday. — Additional reporting from IOL