Congo’s Space Program

Deep in the hills of the Democratic Republic of Congo, you’ll find men and women hard at work providing a living for their family. You might find some working in one of the nation’s mines which are rich in natural resources.  Others will be working the farms or participating in one of many diverse cultural customs. If you head two hours via dirt road from the capital city of Kinshasa, however, you’ll find something a bit out of place for the area – an active space program.

On a vast yam farm, [Jean-Patrice Keka] has single-handedly developed several rockets that have flirted with the space_01elusive zero gravity environment. [Mr. Keka’s] ‘Mission Control’ is a corrugated metal shed lined with CRT monitors and dated computers, but don’t let this fool you. His vision and drive are just as great as any space faring nation.

His intellect has made him a small fortune in commodities trading, and allows him the luxury to finance his operation without the need of government help. From time to time, he employs the help of local engineering students to get his rockets off the ground. Their payload has included rats and insects, with one launch reaching 10 miles of altitude and the current project aiming for 120 miles. [Mr. Keka] has become a national hero via the televised broadcasts of the launches, and has gotten the attention of national government officials. They even flew him to the US once to petition funding for his work.

[Mr. Keka] and his story should serve as an inspiration to all inspiring hackers and makers to pursue their dreams.

Thanks to [Cmh62] for the tip.

29 thoughts on “Congo’s Space Program

      1. Doesn’t mean it isn’t cargo cult.

        Just because you have something that works doesn’t mean you have any real idea or point to what you’re doing with it. The idea of the original cargo cult was to create the -appearance- of a working airfield with crew and offices and military parades because they thought the mere action of it would bring the cargo.

        1. No idea or point to what he’s doing? So it’s a hack.

          This actually flies. It does what it’s supposed to do. Not cargo cult. He’s learning from what he does, so it’s also research and engineering, might be that on his budget he discovers some useful way of doing rocketry cheaper. Satellites are only getting smaller. Maybe Congo can have it’s own self-launched satellites. I think it’s a great idea. Anything a man does in his shed is a great idea.

    1. Wow! found a follow up of a test on his 13th plane! (spoiler alert, it doesn’t fly :P)
      So much passion, but…
      Also, it’s not a matter of ‘africans and their IQ’ (discalimer, I’m African) – every nation has it’s hopeful but misguided people without a grounding in physics etc to show them what won’t work. We should probably stop laughing and point these guys in the direction of some proper engineering knowledge.

      1. I agree, IQ has nothing to do with it, I estimate the majority of viewers on this site are European or American and most Americans are of European dissent. In Europe we live with the most basic technology for thousands of years only in the last 200 or so years has technology took off. It’s not because our IQ’s have suddenly increased. It’s down to Education and discoveries made by our ancestors. We are using the building blocks of other peoples experiments, ambitions & mistakes today.

        So too anyone mocking this guy or program it should be you we are mocking, Without people like this with ambition we would all still be living in caves. People laughed at some of the greatest engineers/Scientists of their day. “It can’t be done” people would say and sometimes it couldn’t be done but it was all worth it for those few inventions that did work and did transform our lifes today.

        1. Or they could look up the science texts that are easier now to access than ever before. You are implying its a good idea to reinvent the wheel with inferior materials/testing/science. Still its inspiring, just not enlightening.

  1. You guys are being awfully discouraging. Mr. Keka got his rocket ten miles up, that’s quite impressive! Obviously it would be great if he could start off with technology as advanced as SpaceX’s, but NASA had no issues with the same level of technology in the 60s. The only thing lacking in his program is a little more funding and equipment.

    1. I would be willing to chip in, I think hackaday has missed a trick here by not offering a donation page. It looks like a tiny bit of funding would go a hell of a long way with these guys. I would love to help, this is really inspirational.

      1. A problem might be the guy waking up one day to a pile of semi-obsolete monitors piled outside his house. I’d guess he has Internet access, although of course they did the Apollo missions without it. It’s the sort of thing he needs to manage himself, perhaps he can be contacted, and interested parties can arrange to send him whatever he might need. The postage isn’t going to be cheap.

  2. Reminds me of the movie October Sky.

    I was passionate about rockets as a kid, but got distracted by electronics when I started repairing iPods and laptops. I also learned the value of good programming when Ariane V was destroyed by a software bug. So now I’m a control systems programmer. I’m really pleased to see non military-funded rocketry taking off, though. That industry is certainly growing!

    1. My thoughts exactly, other than HAB anf the rocketgods who builds all the rocket launches you see on the discovery channel. You have to file flight plans get this approval get that gubment agency to sign off on this or that, I bet this guy goes out is back door and lights a fuse and off the rocket goes!!! ( i envision a Wile E Coyote acme rocket launch !!)
      good for him hope he makes it to 120 miles up

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