Kenya set to launch new homemade nano-satellite

African countries must take advantage of the innovations space technology has to offer to improve the socio-economic wellbeing of a nation…

An artist depiction of the Kenyan built Cubesat

The Republic of Kenya is about to join the exclusive club of owner of space-based assets in Africa as it begins to make plans to launch its fully indigenous satellite system into space.

The new Kenyan satellite was designed by students and researchers from the University of Nairobi (UoN) in collaboration with the Italian Sapienza University and the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA), after the completion of the Kenyan satellite it was handed over to the JAXA Tsukuba Space Centre in January for launch into space.

International Space Station (ISS)
International Space Station (ISS) [Credit: NASA]
The Nano Satellite (Cubesat), the name of the Kenyan satellite is just 10cm cube -costing about Ksh100 million (about $1million USD) the funds which was provided by Japan during the design phase.

If all goes according to plan, it’ll herald Kenyans venture into space. Something peculiar about the Kenyan satellite is that it is the first cubesat selected to be deployed from the Japanese Experimental Module (Kibo) which would interface with the International Space Station.

ISS integrated sub-components

Cubesat is administered by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and JAXA. Although according to the UoN vice-chancellor, the Kenyan’s Nano satellite will only be used for monitoring climate change, wildlife mapping, earth mapping, weather forecast, coastline monitoring, transport and logistics.

However, the UoN hopes to build bigger and more powerful satellites with better resolution and capabilities in the nearest future.

Nigeria’s Space Efforts

This new development is coming after several African countries are grabbing a slice of the benefits of space technology such a country is Nigeria which is understood to be taking the lead in Africa. In August 1st, 2001 Nigeria commissioned its National Space Research and Development Agency for harnessing the benefits of space technology. The Nigerian space technology ground station although sited and controlled in the country, is linked to several allied nations like Ukraine, Russia, the United Kingdoms and China. Nigeria has about five different satellites in space.

Ethiopian Space Efforts

Investing in space technology is the way forward for any country to speedup national development. African countries must take advantage of the innovations space technology has to offer to improve the socio-economic wellbeing of a nation. For instance, Ethiopia in partnership with the United States National Agency for Space Administration (NASA) has established SERVIR-Africa to help monitor and tackle the outbreak and spread of natural diseases, biodiversity and climate change.

Algerian Space Efforts

Another country which has accepted the use of space-based asset is Algeria which launched its own satellite Alcomsat-1 and would be operated by the Algerian Space Agency. The Alcomsat-1 was designed with an operational service life of 15 years.

South African Space Efforts

South Africa is well known as a key player in the global arms manufacturing market has two locally built nano-satellites launched on the Atlas V rocket on 18th of April 2017. The launch took place in Cape Canaveral in Florida.

South Africa’s two satellites which were developed in-house are nSight 1 designed by Cape Town Group SCS space –a subsidiary of the SCS Aerospace group while the second ZA-Aerostat was designed and produced by CubeSpace from the Stellenbosch University.


With all this new and exciting development by African countries, does it indicate new interest in participating in the global scramble for space or is it just a salient space-technology arms race? Only time will tell.

Astronauts working on an ISS module
Astronauts working on an ISS module [credit: NASA]
What do you think about this latest development? Is it encouraging or should Africa be worried? Please share your opinion in the comment section.

Patrick Kenyette

I speak through my camera lens.

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