The Kenyan Space Programmme

Happy Independence day, Kenya

The Kenyan Space Agency (KSA) was established in 2017. It is mandated to coordinate, regulate and promote the development of the Kenyan space sector; provide leadership and advisory in space policies, legislation and programmes; and promote socio-economic development. Also, the agency positions the country for regional and international partnerships in space science, technology and other related fields. The KSA adopted a space strategy, which focuses on utilising space science and technology to drive social, economic and political and environmental development in Kenya.

Kenya’s involvement in space activities started in 1962 when the Republic of Italy identified a vital Kenyan natural resource which is the combination of a continent’s east coast that lies on the equator. This led to an agreement between the two nations, followed by establishing the San Marco Satellite Launching and Tracking Station at Ngomeni, Malindi. The Kenyan government has ever since recognized the importance and direct dividends attainable from space studies. As a result, Kenya formed the National Space Secretariat (NSS) in June 2009, before establishing a dedicated space agency, the KSA, in 2017.

Furthermore, the strategy aims to use space technology for political development, social benefits and economic growth to enhance public service, public health, and access to education, create sustainable communities, and use satellite data to improve the country’s agricultural and transportation sectors. 

In October 2020, the Kenya Space Agency unveiled a 5-year strategic plan from 2020-2025. The KSA focused on four priority areas:

  •  Delivery of Space Services,
  •  Developing National Space Capability, 
  • Sector Coordination and Leadership, and
  • Corporate Positioning and Sustainability. 

Kenya launched its first satellite, the First Kenyan University NanoSatellite-Precursor Flight (1KUNS-PF), in 2018. The 1KUNS-PF was an earth observation satellite utilised to collect wildlife monitoring, mapping, weather forecasting, disaster management, and food security data. The team of Kenyan students and scientists who won the first round of the KiboCUBE programme developed the satellite. Thus, making Kenya one of the few African countries that have locally built their satellites. The 1KUNS-PF deorbited in June 2020. 

In addition, Kenya is right on the Equator. This makes it suited for near-equatorial orbit rocket and satellite launches. This geographical advantage has encouraged the East African nation’s ambition to build a spaceport, and the realisation of this project opens Kenya to immense economic growth and industry development. 

At the moment, Kenya is involved in the following:

  • Development of drone systems to support mapping, heavy lifting, ground-truthing, and disaster management;
  • The development and submission of the first draft to the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI) to convert the Longonot satellite station into an observatory. The project is estimated to cost USD 4-5 million;
  • Collaboration with five other African nations under the umbrella of the African Development Satellite Initiative. The training was designed to facilitate the launch of a pan-African satellite project
  • KSA is also involved with a real-world global design challenge aimed at designing and building drones

Kenya only joined the space scene recently, and it has made significant progress in creating a thriving industry. The country is laser-focused on capacity building and space applications for socio-economic development.  Although Kenya has not disclosed any plans to build a new satellite, it aims to execute a different plan based on its geographical advantage, a spaceport. Kenya’s space ambition and development are one to look out for. 

Happy Independence, Kenya!