Uganda’s Science, Technology, and Innovation Secretariat has announced its intention to develop a second satellite, sparking inquiries about the benefits of the first satellite and the associated costs. The first satellite, PearlAfricaSat-1, was described as having limited capacity and a short lifespan of around 12 months, contrary to earlier claims.
Dr. Cosmas Mwikirize, the superintendent for industrial value chain development at the secretariat, clarified that the first satellite was primarily a student-developed project meant to showcase Uganda’s capabilities. He also revealed that the second satellite is being built in collaboration with partners from Egypt.
Dr. Monica Musenero, the minister for Science, Technology, and Innovation, stated that the focus is on improving capacity and obtaining more information with the second satellite, which is expected to provide communication capabilities similar to digital satellite television.
While the exact cost of developing the first satellite remains undisclosed, it’s estimated that the government has already spent at least Shs7 billion on the program, with a total budget of Shs104.5 billion allocated for two satellites.
The controversy surrounding the project centers on whether such investments are justified given the pressing needs in other sectors of the economy. Some argue that addressing issues like road infrastructure and waste management should take priority.
The first satellite, PearlAfricaSat-1, was a cube satellite size 1U, capable of carrying less than half a kilogramme of hyperspectral cameras with a resolution of 20 meters. Dr. Mwikirize explained that the project is a starting point and a journey towards developing more advanced satellites.
The Mpoma satellite station, initially established in 1978 and renovated recently, plays a crucial role in these endeavors. Collaboration with other countries and organizations with satellite capabilities is also part of the plan for the future.