By Jessie Taylor

Africa is looking to the skies for inspiration in its technological advancement. And as African states are increasing the number of satellites they develop and launch into space, three African women are becoming the faces of the continent’s space exploration efforts. African countries have launched over 40 satellites since 1998, with half of those sent to space in the last five years. In addition, the first satellites to be entirely developed in Africa were launched by South Africa’s Cape Peninsula University of Technology in January 2022. Between now and 2025, African nations are set to launch over 100 new satellites.

Satellite technology is a tool for African nations to improve agricultural productivity and resource management and connect Africans to the global network and its resources. Over the past several years, African nations have been using satellites to get a better view of continental problems such as climate change and terrorism, as well as to tackle the root causes of socioeconomic challenges. However, the continent’s space exploration dreams have not stopped at satellites: three African women are at the forefront of space exploration.

Dr Adriana Marias


The South African quantum biophysicist is preparing for life on the moon or other planets. In 2019, she founded Proudly Human, an organisation that balances working towards the off-world settlements of the near future with uplifting communities already living in extreme environments on Earth. Dr Marais leads the organisation’s Off-World Project, which carries out a series of habitation experiments in the most extreme environments on Earth to prepare for life on the moon, Mars and beyond. She is the director at the Foundation for Space Development Africa and is working towards Africa’s first mission to the moon with the Africa2Moon Project. 

The project hopes to inspire and educate a new generation of engineers and scientists on the continent, with the dream of placing a probe on the lunar surface or in orbit around it. Dr Marais is currently a researcher at the University of Stellenbosch, the National Institute for Theoretical and Computational Sciences, and Singularity University. She also works as a scientific moderator on space resources with the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator and chair of space sciences at Tod’Aérs Aeronautics and Space Research. Since childhood, Dr Marais has dreamed of living on another planet and she was in the running to move to the planet as part of the 100 Mars One Project.

Jessie Ndaba


Jessie Ndaba is one of Africa’s finest aerospace engineers and co-founder of Astrofica, a company pioneering space technology through satellites. The company looks to pioneer Africa and its people forward to its rightful place in the global economy by building space systems and components of satellites. The South African has a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Witwatersrand and is an alumnus of International Space University. She also worked on the SumbandilaSat program, the first government satellite under the directorship of the Department of Science and Technology.

Ms Ndaba has always been passionate about how space science and technology could impact the continent’s socioeconomic and human capital development and believes that Commercial Space companies have an essential role in implementing the African Space Policy. Ms Ndaba says that one of her greatest fulfilments is seeing the “eye we have placed in space” delivering results, saying that we use space technology – such as that developed by Astrofica – daily.


Sara Sabry


Egyptian astronaut Sara Sabry is the first woman from Africa and the Arab world to travel to space. Ms Sabry was launched into space in August 2022 on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket after she was selected by Space for Humanity to go on a mission to experience the Overview Effect and bring that back to Earth. She was selected as the world’s second Citizen Astronaut out of thousands of applicants from all over the world, and her seat to space was fully sponsored by both Space for Humanity and Blue Origin.

She has experience in fields such as Mechatronics and Computational Fluid Dynamics, Stem Cell Development, Robotic Surgery and Bioastronautics.She also has experience as a yoga instructor and CrossFit coach in Egypt. She is pursuing her PhD in Aerospace Sciences at The University of North Dakota, focusing on Spacesuit Engineering and Design.

Ms Sabry founded Deep Space Initiative (DSI), a non-profit organisation that aims to increase accessibility in the space field by providing opportunities for research and education while enabling deep space exploration for all humankind. Deep Space Initiative aims to provide global access to space exploration, emphasising the importance of Africa’s involvement in developing space technology and legislation reforms. She believes that regional and international efforts should be stepped up to allow more Africans to engage in space exploration.

Source: 702 | | Business Insider | Guardian | Harvard International Review | Proudly Human | Space Generation Advisory Council | Space in Africa