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Teen girls design Africa's first private space satellite

November 15, 2016. Summarized by summa-bot.

Teen girls in South Africa have grand ambitions to launch the continent's first private space satellite.

(CNN)They may be teenagers, but 17-year-old Brittany Bull and 16-year-old Sesam Mngqengqiswa have grand ambitions -- to launch Africa's first private satellite into space in 2019.

They are part of a team of high school girls from Cape Town, South Africa, who have designed and built payloads for a satellite that will orbit over the earth's poles scanning Africa's surface.

Once in space, the satellite will collect information on agriculture, and food security within the continent.

Using the data transmitted, "we can try to determine and predict the problems Africa will be facing in the future", explains Bull, a student at Pelican Park High School.

The girls (14 in total) are being trained by satellite engineers from Cape Peninsula University of Technology, in a bid to encourage more African women into STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).

If the launch is successful, it will make MEDO the first private company in Africa to build a satellite and send it into orbit.

"We expect to receive a good signal, which will allow us to receive reliable data," declares an enthusiastic Mngqengqiswa, of Philippi High School.

"In South Africa we have experienced some of the worst floods and droughts and it has really affected the farmers very badly. "

This is a way of looking at how we can boost our economy," says the young Mngqengqiswa.

Initial trials involved the girls programming and launching small CricketSat satellites using high-altitude weather balloons, before eventually helping to configure the satellite payloads.

"It's a new field for us [in Africa] but I think with it we would be able to make positive changes to our economy," says Mngqengqiswa.

"Discovering space and seeing the Earth's atmosphere, it's not something many black Africans have been able to do, or do not get the opportunity to look at," says Mngqengqiswa.

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