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Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

Archive for the ‘Satellites’ Category

Africa the Beautiful

Posted by Simon Adebola on November 30, 2011

Yes it is, just check it out yourself and do come visit. Africa is so beautifully diverse and enchantingly alluring it draws you- a free people, so real.

Suguta Valley, Kenya
Suguta Valley, Kenya.

Nyamuragira Volcano Democratic Republic of Congo
Nyamuragira Volcano Democratic Republic of Congo.

Great Dyke, Zimbabwe.
Great Dyke, Zimbabwe.

Kruger National Park, South Africa.
Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Great Bitter Lake, Suez canal, Egypt.
Great Bitter Lake, Suez canal, Egypt.

Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano, Tanzania.
Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano, Tanzania.

Namib Desert, Namibia
Namib Desert, Namibia

All images are from the NASA Earth Observatory.

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Keeping a Hand on the Pulse of Agriculture on the Continent

Posted by Simon Adebola on November 30, 2011

This post shows the use of satellite imagery to chronicle how natural and man-made events (floods, fires, and wasting droughts) contribute to the success and failure of the agricultural economy responsible for shaping and sustaining the livelihoods of millions of Africans. All images are from the NASA Earth Observatory.

Southern Africa flooding February 2011
Southern Africa flooding February 2011

Zambezi river flooding, Zambia and Namibia, February 2011
Zambezi river flooding, Zambia and Namibia, February 2011

Drought in East Africa, Image taken in January 2010,
Vegetation Anomaly (percent)
Drought in East Africa, Image taken in January 2010,

Fires in Okavango delta, Botswana, October 2010.
Fires in Okavango delta, Botswana, October 2010.

Flooded Oueme river, Benin, October 2010.
Flooded Oueme river, Benin, October 2010.

Revived and Flooded Boteti River, Botswana., September 2010.
Revived and Flooded Boteti River, Botswana., September 2010.

Bush burning, Angola and DRC, June 2010.
Bush burning, Angola and DRC, June 2010.

Flooded Pungue river, Mozambique, March 2010
Flooded Pungue river, Mozambique, March 2010

Flooding in North-central Tanzania, January 2010.
Flooding in North-central Tanzania, January 2010.

Agricultural fires across West Africa, December 2009.
Agricultural fires across West Africa, December 2009.

Fires in and around Mozambique, September 2009.
Fires in and around Mozambique, September 2009.

Flooding in West Africa, September 2009.
Flooding in West Africa, September 2009.

Posted in Africa, Drought, Earth observation, Flooding, Humanitarian emergencies, NASA, Satellites, Southern Africa, Space science and technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Remote Sensing and Desertification

Posted by Simon Adebola on December 21, 2010

“Satellite imaging technology has been recognized as playing an important role in achieving this objective by using these methods for monitoring the areas most at risk to support land and water management decisions.

Earth observation (EO) satellite technologies allow land degradation processes to be monitored over time. Monitoring desertification, land degradation and droughts requires continuous evaluation, some of which can be retrieved with earth observation technologies and state-of-the-art geo-spatial applications.

High-spectral resolution satellite imagery can dramatically increase the accuracy of dryland monitoring. Hyperspectral imagery incorporated with field and laboratory data for analysis can be used to derive more quantitative and specific soil properties directly linked to soil degradation status, such as soil chemical properties, organic matter, mineralogical content, infiltration capacity, aggregation capacity, and runoff coefficient.

Combining satellite image data with weather data, numeric models and geographical information systems (GIS) are used to create standardized geo-information products.”

Full article here

Posted in Climate change, Drought, Satellites, Space science and technology, Technology | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Case File: MDG 2- Universal Education

Posted by Simon Adebola on September 14, 2010

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education

Target 2A: By 2015, all children can complete a full course of primary schooling, girls and boys
o Enrollment in primary education
o Completion of primary education
o Literacy of 15-24 year olds, female and male

Integrated Satellite Applications

    Rural Broadcasting

“The lack of adequate rural educational infrastructure and non-availability of good teachers in sufficient numbers adversely affect the efforts made in education. Satellites can establish the connectivity between urban educational institutions with adequate infrastructure imparting quality education and the large number of rural and semi-urban educational institutions that lack the necessary infrastructure. Besides supporting formal education, a satellite system can facilitate the dissemination of knowledge to the rural and remote population about important aspects like health, hygiene and personality development and allow professionals to update their knowledge base as well. Thus, in spite of limited trained and skilled teachers, the aspirations of the growing student population at all levels can be met through the concept of tele-education….. EDUSAT is the first exclusive satellite for serving the educational sector. It is specially configured to meet the growing demand for an interactive satellite-based distance education system for the country through audio-visual medium, employing Direct to Home (DTH) quality broadcast”. Indian Space Research Organisation on EDUSAT

A similar program in Mexico utilizes satellite technology to beam educational programs to 35,000 set top boxes in Mexico and even other parts of the continent.

Posted in Education, Millennium Development Goals, Satellites | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

GRACE abounds!

Posted by Simon Adebola on July 1, 2010

The National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) are to continue their collaboration on the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission on till 2015. Full story here

Data from NASA's GRACE satellites helps gauge groundwater fluctuations in northwestern India and elsewhere. (National Geographic Society Website)

Image courtesy Trent Schindler and Matt Rodell, NASA

Results from this mission have proven invaluable in tracking the amount of underground water, ice, and global sea levels. This is of key essence in preparing for hazards related to water shortages, rising sea levels, and ocean currents. It is also important that scienctists and researchers on the African continent take advantage of such data to develop intelligent systems that would help guide the development of climate adaptation, disaster preparedness, and mitigation efforts. The role of international cooperation, capacity building, and financial support is very crucial here. Efforts should also be made to engage communities proactively, and empower them to cope with these foreseeable challenges.

More on GRACE here

Posted in Africa, Climate change, Disaster management, Drought, Earth observation, Global Security, India, NASA, Satellites, Science, Space science and technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Landscape Ecology: The Use of Space Imagery Off Namibia’s Coast

Posted by Simon Adebola on April 12, 2010

This article from the NASA Earth Observatory explains how the emission of hydrogen sulphide along the continental shelf off the Namibian coast can be viewed from space. It also shows the interactions between these emissions and other factors in the biosphere. The emissions follow a mix of ocean currents, geophysical dynamics, biological and chemical interplays. These however bear on the marine life in the vicinity of these emissions. Their effects, both positive and negative, are also felt far inland.

Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS) captures hydrogen sulphide emissions along the Namibian coast (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)

Africa’s oceans hold huge potential for the continent. Its rich ecosystems with huge stores of biodiversity treasures all count as valuable knowledge resources for the continent. It remains to be seen however how much of the continent’s wide ocean expanse would be conservatively harnessed to bring economic benefits while preserving its unique heritage.

Click here to learn more on the use of earth observation in biodiversity and ecosystems.

More images and articles (click on the images):

NASA Image of Namibian Coast

Posted in Africa, Development, Earth observation, NASA, Satellites, Space | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Dust Panic

Posted by Simon Adebola on April 12, 2010

Satellite images captured the flow of dust storms that were responsible for hazy conditions across parts of West and Central Africa in Mid March 2010. The image shown below shows the dust storms as they spread from the Red Sea right across the continent, and extend till the Atlantic Ocean.

Dust storm across Africa (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)

News reports across Nigeria, where there were hazy conditions in many parts of the country, attributed the dust storms to climate change. Other countries affected include Cameroon, Chad and Niger. African countries need to invest in advanced meteorological practices to better prepare and inform their citizenry, and to avoid panic and undue speculation when untoward weather events arise. Misinformation can take a toll on the economic livelihood of the nation.

Development of space capabilities and the use of space imagery and its derived value-added products can help enhance the knowledge-based economy that many African nations currently strive for. Indeed the rise of technological advantage as an integral part of economic intelligence lays the responsibility of integrating technology-based knowledge and forecasting into the practice of aspects of human endeavour like health, agriculture, transport, governance etc.

More dust scenes:
DUST OFF THE WEST COAST OF AFRICA
SAHARAN DUST STORM

Posted in Africa, Climate change, Development, Disaster management, Earth observation, Education, Health, Satellites, Science, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Launching the ‘African Heritage From Space’ Series: Namib Desert (AHFSS 1)

Posted by Simon Adebola on February 18, 2010

Africa is blessed with a rich social, moral and cultural heritage, there is no doubt about that. The land is also rich in bountiful stores of natural resources. It’s people however are its greatest assets and these have made their mark not only on the continent but indeed all over the globe and even in space exploration. That is Africa.

Of particular significance though, is the uniqueness and beauty of Africa’s geophysical structure. It’s breathtaking landscapes, lush greenery, magnificent forests, cascading waterfalls, gorgeous hills and mountains, “proud ancestral savannas”, and seering yet awestriking deserts, are some of the features that have made Africa the prime allure of explorers, the daring and adventurous for centuries.

The Group on Earth Observation (GEO) lists ecosystems and biodiversity as two of its themes and societal benefit areas. Space technologies can play a major role in supporting efforts at conserving the state of our environment. These efforts thus need to be augmented through the use of earth observation and other space capabilities in environmental monitoring and conservation. There is an increasing role to be played by the integration of technologies in development aims because they offer boundless opportunities to optimize resources and increase efficiency.

The ‘African Heritage from Space Series’ is being launched to connect these potentials of space technology to the God-given magnificence of Africa’s ecosystems and entire landscape. This will showcase the varied scenes of beauty that exist in different parts of the continent as seen through the eyes of space-borne instruments. Furthermore, like apples of gold in settings of silver, each image would be set within the context of what is and what could be.

The first image in this series is of the Namibian Desert and it was taken by an astronaut on Expedition 22 on the International Space Station (ISS). It is made available through the NASA Earth Observatory.

Tsauchab River and Sossus Vlei Lakebed, Namibia (NASA)

The Namibian desert extends for about 81,000 sq. km. and it is from this Namib (Nama for vast) desert that the country of Namibia gets its name. The driest desert in Africa and the oldest in the world, this richest of sources for diamonds captivates endlessly with its awestriking dunes that remind one of the Martian landscape. It has a unique blend of animal and plant varieties that make up its ecosystem. One of the most popular of these is the Welwitschia mirabilis with its single pair of leaves, existing in an order of its own. See a video of the desert and its enchanting features below.

The desert has long inspired paintings, photographs, poems, historical writings and other works of art. It has also had its fair share of scientific study. The sand dunes pictured in this image are the tallest in the world, reaching up to a height of 300 metres above river bottom. The desert however is one of the world’s driest and the future of its species, though rugged, is a concern for conservationists and environmental biologists. It is also a location for mining ventures which together with farming, if not carefully monitored, could further pose a challenge to its ecostability. It is a coastal desert that is gradually encroaching westward to reclaim land from the ocean.

You can explore the area further here

Posted in Africa, Development, Drought, Earth observation, Education, NASA, Satellites, Science, Southern Africa, Space, Space science and technology, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Africa, Solar Power and Space Technologies 2

Posted by Simon Adebola on February 11, 2010

In the quest for renewable energy solutions that could serve to meet the world’s energy needs in a cost-effective way, there are many options that are being proposed. Some of these options are quite interesting, a number are ingenious and laughable, and yet some border on the fringe of the bizarre, and on being outright outrageous.

One particular example of alternative energy solutions that holds huge potential for the many parts of Africa with many sunny days in a year is the PS 10 in Sanlucar le Mayor, 25km west of Seville, Spain. It is the world’s first commercial tower technology solar thermoelectric power plant. See the video below.

The search for appropriate locations to derive maiximum yield from solar energy has led some to consider the possibility of moving beyond the earth’s surface, above it’s immdiate atmosphere, and into the vastness of space to tap this abundant resource. The case for Space-Based Solar Power(SPSP) or Space Solar Power (SSP), as it is called, is made by those who seek to overcome the huge loss of solar energy that occurs as radiation from the sun loses it’s value as it passes through the earth’s atmosphere to reach its surface where most solar panels exist. Moreso, unlike solar panels on earth which are subject to meteorological and day/night changes, a satellite in space bearing a solar panel can have uninterrupted reception of solar energy for conversion to electricity and onward transmission to the Earth’s surface. This idea has been a subject of intensive research by a number of developed nations who predict drastic energy shortages and seek to augment current energy supply means with power gathered from space. This energy can then be beamed back to earth solving the power generation and transmission questions by systematically splitting transmission into sending (from space) and receiving (on ground) components. They can then use existing distribution networks.

Does this approach hold any special benefit for Africa? Are there equally efficient options on the continent? Are current and potential energy shortages faced by the continent due to a dearth of energy sources or lack of utilization of existing energy sources? Does Africa have the potential of supplying power to other continents? Whose responsibility is it to make Africa energy self-sufficient and even commercially capable in supplying other states?

If in spite of the abundance of solar energy sources in Africa, people prefer to invest in going all the way to space, a technology solution that is probably 5 decades away from being deployable on a commercially feasible scale, then that should point to the fact that Africa in many ways has the primary responsibility to invest in and develop its own viable energy sources. This may be their solution to generating in Africa and transmitting to Europe, Asia or America. The problem with this option is that the risk of failure is high compared to the incurred investment especially since the technologies have been untested on the scale that it would take to make economic sense. However their efforts in conceptualising and developing new technologies to adapt to future change is commendable, and that should be emulated across Africa. Africa needs a breed of forward-looking engineers, entrepreneurs and social policy makers to help it cope with the needs of the present and the challenges of its future. The lesson there is probably not that some are willing to try something crazy rather than come to invest in Africa, but that we had better get the message that the rest of the world will not wait for Africa to solve its own problems.

Posted in Africa, Development, Education, Innovation, Satellites, Science, Southern Africa, Space, Space science and technology, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Africa, Solar Power and Space Technologies 1

Posted by Simon Adebola on February 11, 2010

The provision of alternative energy sources to drive the machines of development in Africa, and indeed globally, is a major issue. This is further heightened by the scientific and economic possibilities that surround the commercial deployment of new technologies that use renewable energy sources as alternatives to coal and petroleum. Governments, research institutions, and private entities alike have all embarked on quests to discover, develop, and deploy efficient and renewable energy solutions.

Darling Wind Farm, South Africa. (Source: BBC News Africa)

The growth of carbon-efficient technologies has helped to fuse considerations such as cost-effectiveness and environmental impact into the primary concern of technical feasibility. Some of the options being explored include wind, hydroelectric energy, biomass, and solar energy.

In spite of its having a rich abundance of each of these energy sources, Africa still reels under the lack of energy to drive development and economic growth. This is largely because technological and organisational know-how is needed to exploit these options and most parts of the continent still fall behind in this aspect.

Africa stands at a particular advantage with respect to solar energy. The development and commercial exploitation of this resource should have long been a priority of many African governments. The space programme has long relied on solar energy to drive its exploratory missions.

SMART-1, ESA’s technology demonstration satellite to the moon, used highly efficient solar power solutions to accomplish new technological feats. See a video of SMART-1.

There are many lessons to be learned here by countries seeking to profit from the utilisation of solar energy. The hardening of spacecraft components to help them cope with the harsh extremes of the space environment can be adapted to improve the effiency of solar energy hardware deployed in desert-like conditions. Deserts are notorious for their very hot days and extremely cold nights. Hardening helps technologies deployed in harsh environments to stay efficient and deliver for much longer. If man can successfully deploy structures like the International Space Station’s solar array wings to provide consistent power supply for man’s presence in space, then nothing stops Africans from repeating something that does not come near that as a technological feat.

International Space Station showing solar arrays (Source: NASA)

Profitable exploitation of solar power is possible and needed in Africa. The technologies are available, what is needed is the political will and economic sense to drive its successful implementation. Some people are already making efforts in this direction.

A graduate of the International Space University, Ayodele Faiyetole, believes in the potential and impact of solar power. He is overcoming the resistance of his environment to deliver voltage and light to communities hitherto enshrouded in darkness and ignorance of the possibilities that the sunlight around them can bring. He recently received the Todd B. Hawley Space Visionary Award for his achievements. Read more about him here

Solar panels and solar energy options have advanced in the last few decades and the field is still growing. This is a key area where Africa can make its mark and pull its people out of darkness to light.

Posted in Africa, Development, Innovation, NASA, Satellites, Science, Southern Africa, Space, Space science and technology, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »