The small West African nation of Ghana accomplished a major milestone the other day, with some help. They launched their first satellite, named GhanaSat-1, into space in June. The satellite is now fully operational, as the story represents the growing space race taking place throughout Africa in recent years.

How Ghana launched their first satellite

Ghana's first satellite, which was built by a Ghanian engineering team at the country's All Nations University, is a CubeSat. That means it is a type of miniaturized satellite made of multiples of 10x10x10 centimeter (3.93 inches) cubic units.

Nana Akufo-Addo, Ghana's President, congratulated the engineering team on their achievement.

However, the project received no support from the country's government. JAXA, Japan's national space agency, helped the team by providing them with much of the training and resources to help develop the satellite.

Once GhanaSat-1 was completed it was launched into space on SpaceX's Falcon 9 Rocket, which took off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The rocket delivered it to the International Space Station (ISS) in June, with it being deployed from there in July. It is now fully operational and in orbit.

What is the satellite's mission?

Richard Damoah, a Ghanian professor and research assistant at NASA, was the project manager behind the launch.

He talked to TechCrunch about the dual mission that GhanaSat-1 will have. The satellite has detailed cameras on it to help monitor the country's coastline. The second mission is to use the launch to help integrate satellite technology into high school curriculum. The satellite will send a ground signal to the Space Systems and Technology Laboratory at All Nations University so that it can be monitored.

The growing space race in Africa

Ghana was not the only African country to recently launch their first satellite. Nigeria also launched their first satellite, also a CubeSat, on the same SpaceX mission. Elsie Kanza recently discussed at the World Economic Forum the growing interest in space among African nations.

She discussed how several countries like Ethiopia, Nigeria, and South Africa have official space programs.

Angola also has plans to launch their first satellite, AngoSat 1, later this year. All of this comes on the heels of the African Union (AU) adopting the African Space Policy and Strategy Initiative last year.