Kenya to Launch a KSh 10B Space Centre

Satelite Space Centre
Satelite Space Centre

The country is in the final stages of establishing a space centre, the equivalent of National Aeronautics and Space Administration(NASA) agency, a project that will propel Kenya to the elite club of a few countries in the world that own earth observation satellites.

The space centre that is projected to cost to the tune of Sh10 billion for a constellation of earth observation satellites is expected to boost the country’s security as well as provide solutions in the agriculture, education and medical sectors. Experts, military and government officials who are spearheading the National Space Policy, Strategy and Space Agency Order have told the Standard that proposals on establishment of a Space centre will be included in the cabinet docket before the end of June.
The project is being spearheaded by the Office of the Deputy President and Ministry of Defence with Dr John Kimani (the lead Scientist at the Ministry of Defence), Prof Paul Baki and Prof Hunja Waithaka as the lead scientists.
“This is a major breakthrough for the country in our efforts to ensure that we become a country with a space centre,” Dr John Kimani, the lead Scientist at the Ministry of Defence said.
If established, the centre will end over three decades wait for a national space policy and strategy since the country opened discussions of establishing a Space Centre in the year 1983. It will also have Kenya transition from a passive user of space and space technologies to a contributor to the development of space technology. According to scientists, the country is strategically located at a point where it will exhaust the space project for massive economic growth and creation of jobs.
“Kenya’s strategic outer space includes the geographic location along the equator and bordering the Indian Ocean to its East that facilitates ease of landing of space crafts, tracking of space crafts in space, and ease of access to equatorial orbits, and in particular the geostationary orbit,” the Policy order reads.
Lilian Abishai, a senior Counsel at the Office of the Attorney General, said that all the necessary legal instruments are being prepared so that the space centre will conform to both local laws and international conventions and treaties.
“An Order has been established through which the Space Agency will succeed the National Space Secretariat that is currently under the Ministry of Defence, “she said.
Since independence, the country’s initiatives in space have included the San Marco Malindi satellite launching and tracking station and satellite communication through the Longonot and Kericho Earth stations. MP Wilberforce Otchillo who was involved in the initial plan for the drafting of a national space police and strategy said that parliament has already all the motions required for the establishment of the space centre. In 2011, a motion by the Otchillo on motion urging the country to develop a space agency received overwhelming support in parliament.

The country is expected to spend dozens of billions of shillings if the project is expected to be realized. “It’s an expensive industry. You don’t put money today and expect results tomorrow,” Prof Waithaka told the Standard.
Prof Waithaka estimates that a single earth observation satellite will cost about Sh3 billion together with its support systems. Prof O.L.E Mbuthia, a policy expert at the University of Nairobi, says that the costs might look astronomical for the common man but they are a necessity for a country that wants to develop.
“People will ask why spend a lot of money in space while little has been done on the ground. They have to be told that scientists have to advance knowledge and this has no limit,” Prof Mbuthia says. If the project is realised, the scientists have promised a change of fortunes for the country.
” Through space science we can be able to monitor projects like the one million acre Galana project and scientifically establish sections that need watering, track cattle rustlers, train people in remote areas through tele-education and even have doctors pass medical opinions and offer treatment through telemedicine,” says Dr Kimani. Only Two African countries have satellites The plans will see Kenya enter the elite club of African countries that have space centres.
Only Nigeria and Algeria have earth observation satellites while South Africa is finalising the process of establishing one. Like Kenya, Ghana, Egypt and Gabon have also initiated space projects. Due to the massive investments required for the space projects, various African countries have joined hands to establish the Africa Resource and Environment Management Satellite Constellation that will spearhead the development of a reliable space centre in Africa.
“The government has already given us seed money to participate in the initiative,” Dr Kimani says.Kenya is developing a space centre in its efforts to develop viable home grown space industry and enhance coordination of space related activities by establishing linkages among government agencies and institutions, industry and researchers.
Since independence, the country’s initiatives in space have included the San Marco Malindi satellite launching and tracking station and satellite communication through the Longonot and Kericho Earth stations.
MP Wilberforce Otchillo who was involved in the initial plan for the drafting of a national space police and strategy said that parliament has already all the motions required for the establishment of the space centre. In 2011, a motion by the Otchillo on motion urging the country to develop a space agency received overwhelming support in parliament.

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  • I have been pushing for a CIVILIAN SPACE PROGRAM since 2010 to run parallel with the secretive n military one being planned : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftBxMcTZy9w

    The beauty of my approach is that it would offer Kenyan students the opportunity to develop space satellites without having to leave Kenya and would thereby save the nation millions in terms of foreign study.

    Vested interests have always stood in the way; ALSO lack of initial sponsorship interest from even blue-chip Kenyan corporates which cannot understand the value of space research and the technological benefits that would accrue from such.

    • African Simba

      MInd sharing your plan? Seems your site is down…

      • I deliberately took it down after Tiros space bulletin ran a report about it in 2013 resulting in a team from Belgium’s KU Leuven University seeking to also go the route of advertising in space to raise mission funding:http://spacebillboard.com/

        My concept is based on:

        1. Offering 60 Kenyan corporate entities an opportunity to be on a space-based billboard developed by Kenyan students. They pay 2,5M in advance (same as for road-side billboard BUT with global visibility) which we use to fund our mission.

        2. We have an earth-observation camera on board that enables Kenyan students view the Mau Forest for deforestation every one hour as it flies overhead and thus plan mass student re-afforestation excursions during school vacations.

        3. The satellite’s five sub-systems will be developed in Kenya by five separate university teams then brought together for final integration (same as airbus production system) and delivery to launching company. This will enable Kenyan students for the first time get hands-on experience in satellite engineering at affordable cost without having to attend foreign universities at high costs to them and the nation)

        4. We will also develop a satellite engineering course available to any student interested in pursuing satellite engineering which actually offers elements of Aerodynamics, Experimental Fluid Mechanics, Aerospace structures, Materials, Orbital Mechanics, Attitude Dynamics, Automatics Control, Rocket Propulsion, Space Environment, Space Communications, Spacecraft Systems Design in addition to the usual electronics and electronics and other core engineering elements.

        In a nutshell, this will be a profit-driven civilian space program that offers an avenue for R&D in space and defense applications without relying on public funds or donor funding; it will therefore not attract the usual claim of why should Kenya launch satellites while it can use the money to produce more food and try to alleviate poverty.

        The detailed business plan has some aspects that cannot be shared on this public forum but I can say that Istanbul Technical University’s Small Satellite Design & Testing Laboratory as well as South Korea’s Satrec Initiative have expressed interest in collaborating in this program that would actually develop a nanosat within 30 months and two more of bigger size and greater complexity at 14 month intervals after that,

        • African Simba

          This sounds very interesting…how far have you reached in terms of any milestone accomplishments? I would like to discuss and possible join in this project if possible — at an interested party level.

          • My milestone messages to you are being flagged as spam. You can email me at allquiry(at)gmail.com or alternatively provide an email

  • At the moment us Europeans can partner with ESA, and import our civilian private sector space program in the Broglio space centre, no questions asked. That’s because it’s being leased to Italy, at least until next year. What comes after, is really up to Kenyans. It would be nice, if such partnerships could be allowed to continue.