On 15 March 2023, Italian President Sergio Mattarella, accompanied by the Italian Space Agency President Giorgio Saccoccia, Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale and Maj Gen James Aruasa, will pay a courtesy visit to the Luigi Broglio Space Center in Ngomeni, near Malindi, Kenya. This visit was part of the scheduled items on President Sergio Mattarella’s four-day official visit to Kenya between 13-16 March 2023, expected to increase trade and investment opportunities between both nations.
Alongside top officials from both countries, the quick tour will reiterate the importance of space technology to sustainable development and highlights the benefit of human capital development across universities and other institutions.
To set the stage, President Giorgio Saccoccia, Maj Gen James Aruasa, and the DG of Kenya Space Agency, Brig Hillary Kipkosgey, met at the Space Centre to discuss possible ways of strengthening partnerships between both agencies.
Kenya and Italian space collaboration can be traced to the early 1960s when the Italian government established the Luigi Broglio Space Center (BSC) near Malindi, Southeastern Kenya. The BCS was developed through a collaboration between Sapienza University of Rome’s Aerospace Research Centre and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to aid the launch of Italian and international satellites.
Apart from tracking international satellites from NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), the Israel Space Agency (ISA), etc., the centre was also utilised for remote sensing image acquisition and processing in L and X- bands from MODIS/Terra and MODIS/Aqua for the Central and Eastern African region due to its proximity to the equator. As a result, the satellite imagery and related data were accessible to the Kenyan research community and government bodies. Also, BSC was instrumental in detecting a signal confirming a successful orbital placement of the James Webb Space Telescope in December 2021.
The centre houses a main offshore equatorial launch facility, the San Marco platform (completed in 1966). At the same time, the ground segment featured three ground station facilities (two secondary control facilities and a communications ground station), a training centre and several logistics facilities. In 2020, the Kenyan parliament ratified a new deal on using the multi-billion dollar rocket launching facility. This agreement meant that Kenya would receive KES 25 million (USD 250,000) annually from Italy to use the land. Furthermore, the KES 25 million deal will be reviewed every five years, with a USD 50,000 (KES 5 million) increment.
On the sidelines of the Italian President’s visit, Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua confirmed that several MoUs would be signed across several industries, including bilateral talks with Kenyan President Willaim Ruto geared towards developing both nations.