Kenya Space Agency launches five model satellites

KSA’s acting director general, Col. Hillary Kosgey, reiterated the agency’s commitment to support the development and development of space systems. Source: KSA

At the 14thNS In October, the Kenya Space Agency (KSA) hosted an event that launched a 1U nanosatellite. Five universities competed against each other at the event in Kenya’s emerging smart city, Konza Technopolis. The universities included Kenyatta University (KU), Moi University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology (JKUAT), Technical University of Kenya (TUK), and University of Nairobi (UON).

Each of the universities presented their 1U nanosatellite model for different missions. Aside from the TUK, the main payload for the universities was a camera. The camera was intended for remote sensing applications in agriculture and disaster management. In addition, the KU project focused on the use of satellites to provide images for crop monitoring to support smart agriculture. That was the case with both Moi University and UON. JKUAT’s mission also included a thermal imaging camera. The imager can be used for surface temperature monitoring and additional tasks such as tracking wildebeest migration.

In contrast to the other four universities, the TUK mission focused on emergency rescue operations for Kenyan fishermen on Lake Victoria. TUK has equipped its 1U nanosatellites with a transceiver to recognize emergency signals. The satellite receives the signals from an Automatic Information System (AIS) device built into its boat or ship. The AIS device in turn receives the coordinates of the Global Positioning System (GPS) from the satellites and forwards them to the TUK satellite. The satellite then sends them back to earth to the coastal or land station in an emergency during a rescue operation. These projects demonstrated the determination of the academic institutions and KSA to provide solutions to the challenges in Kenya.

At the event, KSA’s Acting Director General Col. Hillary Kosgey reiterated the agency’s commitment to space systems engineering and development research support. This was shown in the choice of the launch platform for the 1U nanosatellites. KSA hired Swift Lab, an aerospace startup that develops drones to fly nanosatellites.

Colonel Kosgey also promised the participating students limited internship and employment opportunities. His promises came against the background of Professor Paul Baki’s request from TUK for more funds to enable the continuity of the research chair projects. He also called for more consultations with academia and collaboration with other Kenyan research institutions. According to the professor, such proposals will increase the agency’s efforts to develop complete satellites.

The nanosatellite development project is expected to continue, with KSA announcing that additional funding will be made available for the top three universities to launch a 3U nanosatellite. The winners are expected to be announced in the coming days following the results of the jury.

At the event, Charles Mwangi, Head of Research, Education and Public Relations at KSA stated that the ranking of the project will be based on the submitted report, oral presentation and practical demonstration of the nanosatellites. The top three winners will continue to demonstrate their nanosatellites to the Department of Defense and Higher Education. In addition, KSA is planning a balloon launch at high altitude for each of the nanosatellites.

Since its inception, KSA has taken on its mandate to promote space activities in the country. The agency’s determination to see nanosatellites evolve confirms its commitment to capitalizing on local satellite engineering talent and skills.

Kenya had previously launched a CubeSat in cooperation with the Japanese space agency (JAXA). However, the country is more focused on building satellite technology capacities from local universities. As suggested by Professor Paul Baki and confirmed by KSA’s Assistant Director Colonel Kosgey, increasing the agency’s budget may outweigh the country’s ambitions to launch more satellites that address its unique problems.

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