5 September 2018

Namibian Youth Takes First Steps to Entering Space

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WINDHOEK - Fresh from being elected to the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) as coordinator for African, Senior Shimhanda, a final year Master of Engineering student at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) has passed the entrance examination to Japanese Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech) for the Space Engineering International Course (SEIC).

SEIC was launched in April 2013 for aspiring students and engineers with a passion for space. Shimhanda will study in the Department of Mechanical and Control Engineering under the supervision of Prof Mengu Cho, toward a postgraduate degree. Prof Cho is the principal investigator of the Joint Global Multi Nation Birds, known as BIRDS project, and also the director of the Laboratory of Spacecraft Environment Interaction Engineering (LaSEINE).

Shimhanda says the global political landscape is very unpredictable, thus Namibia can't rely on foreign satellite services forever, hence enrolling for this course. "The good news is that lean satellites have significantly minimised space-access costs and strategic development of human capital in space engineering, and space law is therefore crucial," he says. He adds that the development of lean satellites to improve poor mobile network coverage in Namibia to make economic sense is good connectivity. This could potentially attract investors and increase the decentralisation of business services from Windhoek. Monitoring local oceans and wildlife from space is key to conserving local natural resources.

His motivation to enroll for SEIC is the fact that his motherland is a non-spacefaring nation. Namibia has neither a space agency nor a space programme in place at both educational and national level. Hence, he's angling for Namibia to join the BIRDS project in 2020, a cross-border interdisciplinary satellite project for non-spacefaring countries supported by Japan.

According to the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC), during the two-year project, three Namibian students shall design, develop, and operate the first 1U Namibian CubeSat (1kg, 10 cubic cm).

Shimhanda has secured funding from the African Business Education (ABE) Initiative, so it's now up to the Namibian government to fund the other candidates to enroll as Master or Doctoral degree students to build the NamSAT. The BIRDS project hopes to provide participants from developing nations with hands-on satellite development skills and capacity development in space engineering, mirroring the objectives of the Namibia Institute of Space Technology (NIST). Upon completion, graduates will return to Namibia to replicate the satellite development process and domesticate nanosatellite technology.

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