The Kenyan Space Agency (KSA) on 21 October 2020 awarded funding worth a total of Kshs 10 million (approx USD 92,000) to eight Kenyan universities to host Research Chairs (RC) Programme focused on the development of nanosatellites and operational space weather network.
The Agency presented the award to the selected universities during the official launch of its Strategic Plan 2020-2025, attended by Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Defence, Amb. Dr Monica Juma. The acting Director General of the Agency, Gen Thomas Chepkuto, witnessed the signing of the agreement between KSA and the selected universities.
The Kenyan Space Agency had initially issued an open call to public universities to submit proposals to host a research node focused on nanosatellite development and operational space weather study. The Agency received submissions from nine local universities proposing to develop nanosatellites to address different sustainable development goals ranging from agriculture to climate change, vessel tracking, conservation, disaster mitigation, etc.
The Agency says the goal of the programme is to “contribute towards Kenya’s socio-economic development by promoting capacity building and linkages between academia and industry.”
According to the Agency, the Nanosatellite Development project is to build the capacity of local universities to develop space systems and enhance their understanding of space science, technology and applications.
A panel of judges reviewed the submissions and made final selections. Following the recommendation of the panel, the University of Nairobi, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Technical University of Kenya, Moi University and Kenyatta University were each awarded Kshs 1,000,000 (approx USD 9,200) in research funding.
KSA says the objective of the Operational Space Weather project is to “develop a space weather monitoring network that will provide real-time monitoring of space weather events to mitigate against adverse conditions in the space environment. These events affect aviation safety, global navigation satellite systems, electric power transmission grid, pipelines, radio communications and surveying.”
A consortium of Taita Taveta University, University of Eldoret and the Dedan Kimathi University of Technology received Kshs 5,000,000 (approx USD 46,000) to develop the operational space weather.
Kenya’s first university nanosatellite, 1KUNS-PF, was launched on 2 April 2018. The 1U CubeSat was developed by students at the School of Engineering at the University of Nairobi in collaboration with the Sapienza University of Rome Italy, with the support of the National Space Secretariat of Kenya (which later developed into the Kenya Space Agency).
The 1KUNS-PF CubeSat programme cost about USD 1 million and was funded by the Italian Space Agency, in the framework of the ASI-Sapienza Agreement for the management of the scientific activity at the Broglio Space Centre in Malindi, Kenya.
Kenya’s nascent space sector will benefit from both the short and long term gains of the Space Chair Research Programme in terms of academic output in the STEM fields, talent, local knowledge, R&D outputs and potential spinoff of innovative NewSpace startups.
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