Kenya will launch its first operational satellite next week in a landmark achievement for the country’s space programme, the government said on Monday.
Taifa-1, or one nation in Swahili, is scheduled to be launched on April 10 on board the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
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“The mission is an important milestone,” the defence ministry and Kenya Space Agency said in a joint statement, adding that it would contribute significantly to the country’s “budding space economy”.
The observation satellite is “fully designed and developed” by Kenyan engineers and will be used to provide data on agriculture and food security, among other areas, the statement said.
Testing and manufacturing of the parts were done in collaboration with a Bulgarian aerospace manufacturer, it added.
Kenya, East Africa’s economic powerhouse, is suffering its worst drought in decades after five failed rainy seasons.
The satellite launch will add to a push by African nations for scientific innovation and the development of space programmes.
Egypt was the first African country to send a satellite into space in 1998.
In 2018, Kenya launched its first experimental nanosatellite from the International Space Station.
As of 2022, at least 13 African countries had manufactured 48 satellites, according to Space in Africa, a Nigeria-based firm that tracks African space programmes. They include Ethiopia, Angola, South Africa, Sudan and others.
More than 50 African satellites have been launched as of November 2022, according to Space in Africa, although none from African soil.
In January, the Djibouti government announced a memorandum of understanding with a Hong Kong-based company to build a $1bn commercial spaceport that is expected to take five years to complete.