The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and Avio S.p.A. (Avio) have selected a consortium led by the University of Nairobi in Kenya, joined by the University of Arizona from the United States of America and the non-profit organization Space Trust as the first awardee of the ‘Accessing space with Vega C’ programme. The selected team will launch a CubeSat at no cost on board the Vega C rocket.
The “NaSPUoN-0GPM2030” satellite is a 3U class CubeSat aiming at building capacity in Kenya by bringing together international partners with existing technical capabilities. The satellite will be developed at the University of Nairobi supported by the University of Arizona and Space Trust.
The CubeSat will be used to demonstrate technologies, such as an inflatable antenna. It will build on NaSPUoN (Nanosatellite Platform for the University of Nairobi), a test bed to integrate satellite technologies, designed and developed by students from the University of Nairobi under a grant provided by Kenya Space Agency.
The “Accessing space with Vega C” programme is delivered under the Access to Space for All initiative, specifically its Satellite Development Track. The track is dedicated to building capacity for designing, developing, operating, and utilizing satellites with a focus on developing countries.
Acting Director of UNOOSA Niklas Hedman said: “We are thrilled that the Access to Space for All initiative keeps delivering unique programmes for the benefit of the UN Member States. Kenya has been strategically utilizing different hands-on opportunities to develop its space sector, and we hope that the launch of this 3U CubeSat through Vega C will further advance the country’s capabilities. I would like to thank our partner Avio for providing this opportunity as a great contribution to bridging the space divide. We look forward to working together to support Kenya realize this mission.”
Vice President of Strategy and Innovation at Avio Angelo Fontana said: “Avio and Arianespace (Launch Service Provider) are thrilled to give our Kenyan friends this opportunity to launch onboard Vega C, as well as to support UNOOSA in their initiative to develop space-related activities for the non-Space Faring Nations. Vega C is the newborn of the Vega Family: with the successful Maiden Flight on July 13th, 2022, Vega C has demonstrated its improved capabilities, not only in terms of performance but also flexibility and versatility. It is particularly suited for SmallSats aiming to go to Low Earth orbit along with a main Payload, like the University of Nairobi NaSPUoN-0GPM2030 3U CubeSats. Other similar missions will follow in the upcoming years.”
NaSPUoN-OGPM2030 Mission Principal Investigator Mwangi Mbuthia said: “This is a great opportunity for the University of Nairobi (UoN) to continue its nanosatellite capacity-building, which is a huge positive for the nascent space sector in Kenya. As a consortium, we are very grateful to UNOOSA and Avio S.p.A. for granting us the opportunity to launch a 3U CubeSat, free of charge. This will go a long way in enhancing spacecraft engineering and satellite operation capacity not only at UoN, but in Kenya in general. The NaSPUoN-0GPM2030 nanosatellite will herald a new level of space utilization by Kenya and will include an earth observation mission to demonstrate and serve diverse local earth imagery needs. This opportunity cements the great impact of UoN collaboration with the Kenya Space Agency, University of Arizona and Space Trust and we shall work together to realize the NaSPUoN-OGPM2030 mission.”
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