Botswana bans Starlink

On February 2, 2024 regulators in Botswana rejected SpaceX’s application to sell Starlink terminals in that country, “citing the company’s failure to meet all requirements.”

In an email statement, BOCRA [Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority] emphasized that Starlink has not authorized any entity to import or resell its Internet kits in Botswana. Offenders will be committing an offence, although the specific charges remain undisclosed.

Notably, some Starlink kit owners, who claim to have purchased the devices for personal use, find themselves stranded at the Kazungula border in Zambia, facing restrictions on bringing the kits into Botswana. Options provided at the border include returning the device to Zambia or seeking permission from Botswana’s telco regulator, with no successful requests reported thus far.

The article is unclear as to what government requirements SpaceX has so far failed to meet. The article however does describe how many individuals have purchased Starlink terminals elsewhere and then brought them into countries where the service is not yet approved and used the company’s “roaming option in Africa” to make them work. SpaceX has been shutting down such terminals, but apparently it has not been entirely successful.

The bottom line here remains an issue of freedom versus government control. Africans very clearly want the service, and in fact the article describes at length the benefits it brings to poor rural areas. Freedom demands they should get it, as its use does no one harm and everyone good. All that stands in the way is government regulation and intransigence.

Searchers find fragment of asteroid that hit Earth June 2nd

Researchers and local park volunteers in Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve on July 8 announced the discovery of a fragment from an asteroid that hit the Earth June 2 only eight hours after it was discovered.

“The biggest uncertainty we faced was to determine where exactly the meteorites fell,” says Peter Jenniskens a subject expert of the SETI Institute in California, who traveled to Botswana to assist in the search. He teamed up with Oliver Moses of the University of Botswana’s Okavango Research Institute (ORI), to gather security surveillance videos in Rakops and Maun to get better constraints on the position and altitude of the fireball’s explosion. Team member Tim Cooper of the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa calibrated videos to the south.

After disruption, the asteroid fragments scattered over a wide area, blown by the wind while falling down. Calculations of the landing area were done independently by the NASA-sponsored group headed by Jenniskens, as well as by Esko Lyytinen and Jarmo Moilanen of the Finnish Fireball Network. These calculations were defining the fall area well enough to warrant the deployment of a search expedition.

The first meteorite was found after five days of walking and scouring a landscape of sand, thick tall grass, shrubs and thorn bushes by a team of geoscientists from the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BUIST), the Botswana Geoscience Institute (BGI) and from ORI, guided by Jenniskens. The Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks granted access and deployed their park rangers to provide protection and participate in the search. BUIST student Lesedi Seitshiro was first to spot the stone.

This is only the second time in history that a small asteroid observed in space was recovered following its impact on Earth.

I have amateur astronomer friends who attempted to do this exact thing, here in Tucson. We actually went out one day hunting for a meteorite they had tracked, but were unsuccessful in finding anything. To have had success we would have likely required more search time and a better constraint on the asteroid’s landing zone.