Kenya: Country planning more satellite launches for outer space exploration

  • As of 2019, the African space industry was worth US$7.37 billion and is estimated to grow up to US$10.24 billion by 2024
  • On October 14, 2018, the Kenya Space Agency (KSA) presided over the launch of a 1U nanosatellite, in Kenya’s first space mission
  • KSA is upgrading and moving to launch a 3U nanosatellite with plans to use the nanosatellites to launch high-altitude balloons


Houston we have a problem! That old emergency slogan may now have a new solution and it may very well hail from the last place you would expect, Malindi, Kenya.

If you are as uninformed as I am, then you are probably only now finding out that Kenya, East Africa’s economic powerhouse, has an active space programme that is run by the Kenya Space Agency.

The Kenya Space Agency (KSA) was established in 2017 as a successor to the National Space Secretariate that was established in 2009.

The KSA is responsible to coordinate, nurture and developing the Kenyan Space Sector with the goal of utilization of space opportunities.

It is no surprise that Kenya and many other African countries are now investing in space technology and exploration. As of 2019, the African space industry was worth US$7.37 billion and is estimated to grow up to US$10.24 billion by 2024, experiencing about 40% growth, this provides an immense business opportunity for various stakeholders.

Benefits of Kenya’s Space Programme

  1. Agriculture: Kenyan Scientists use space technology in conjunction with agriculture to discover how to control and ensure healthy crop growth.
  2. Disaster Management: Satellites can be used to provide critical information to make predictions such as earthquakes, locust migrations etc…
  3. Security: Satellite communication and imagery has been proven to be effective method to track security threats.
  4. Communication: Television, radio, telephones, internet pick up signals via communication satellites.
  5. Urban Planning: Urban developers use Satellite imaging to closely monitor and support decision making for sustainable urban planning.
  6. Resource Management: Satellites generate multiple forms of data for private use and also for the general public.

As you may have noticed, the space programme goes hand in hand with satellite launching, so, has Kenya launched a satellite?

On October 14, 2018, the Kenya Space Agency (KSA) presided over the launch of a 1U nanosatellite, Kenya’s first space mission. The event took place at Konza Technopolis, a large technology hub planned on the outskirts of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

At the launch, some five Kenyan top universities competed for top position each presenting its own satellite model with the primary payload being a low-resolution camera.

The competition was meant to see which university’s satellite camera would be able to perform remote sensing applications. The project primarily focused on using satellites to provide imagery for crop monitoring to assist in smart agriculture.

Other than the camera, the mission also sought to deploy a thermal imager. To be used in monitoring surface temperatures and the tracking of animals like herds of the wildebeest migration.

A third mission focused on emergency rescue for Kenyan fishers on Lake Victoria. The 1U nanosatellite was fitted with a transceiver that is capable of detecting distress signals.

The satellite receives the signals from an Automated Information System (AIS) device fitted on boats. The device is also capable of relaying Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates effectively giving first respondents the location of the distressed boat.

To fly the satellites, KSA contracted Swift Lab, an aerospace startup that develops drones. After the successful trials, now KSA is upgrading and moving to launch a 3U nanosatellite. Further still, KSA plans to use the nanosatellites to launch high-altitude balloons.

Nairobi To Host NewSpace Africa Conference

The NewSpace Africa Conference is a high-level gathering of industry leaders, commercial space companies, investors, and other key stakeholders in the African space and satellite industry.

Themed “Making Africa the New Hotspot for Space Business,“ the 3-day conference will feature selected keynotes, interactive sessions, panel discussions, business pitches, B2B matchmaking, B2C matchmaking and other networking opportunities.

In Africa, commercial ventures are developing space technologies, and offering space-enabled services to address market demands in various sectors, including telecommunications, defence, security, maritime, aviation, mining, agriculture, environment, development, education, and health.

As mentioned, by 2024, the sector will be worth  US$10.24 billion experiencing 40% growth, this means a great business opportunity for both government and private sector stakeholders. The conference will showcase various investment opportunities and related benefits of space programmes in everyday life.

Africa Space Missions

The African Union Executive Council recently approved the structure of the African Space Agency (AfSA) a key step towards the realization of the coveted African Outer Space Programme.

The Outer Space Programme is one of the flagship programmes of the African Union Agenda 2063. During their 26th Ordinary Session in 2016 in Addis Ababa, the African Union Heads of State and Government adopted the African Space Policy and Strategy.

The headquarters of the AfSA will be in Egypt and will facilitate the human resources needed for the operationalization of the Agency. The agency is expected to commence operations later this year after the appointment of the leadership and workforce of the Agency.

These space programmes are meant to support African national development efforts in agriculture, city planning, security among other benefits.

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List of African Countries With Space Programmes

Sudan: National Remote sensing Center (NRSC) was established in 1977, as a National Remote sensing Center (NRSC) and is responsible for space activities in the country. It has launched one satellite.

Tunisia: Tunisia Space Agency was established under the Ministry of National Defense (CNCT) in 1988 and is in charge of space activities in the country. It has launched one satellite.

Morocco: The Royal Center for Remote Sensing Space (CRTS) is the National Institution responsible for the use, promotion and development of remote sensing space in Morocco. It was established in 1989 and has launched three satellites.

Egypt: Egypt Space Agency was established in 2018 to develop and transfer space science and technology into Egypt to build and launch satellites. However, since 1991 Egypt space missions were handled by National Authority for Remote Sensing & Space Sciences (NARSS). It has launched nine satellites.

Algeria: Established in 2002, the Algeria Space Agency (ASAL) has launched six different satellites to date.

 South Africa: The South African Space Agency  (SANSA) was established in 2010 and has successfully launched eight satellites.

Nigeria: National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) was established in 2006 and in the same year the Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT) was also launched to exploit the commercial viability of the Nigerian Communication Satellite. It has launched six satellites.

Kenya: Kenya Space Agency (KSA) was established in 2017 and has launched 1 satellite.

Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe National Geospatial and Space Agency was launched in 2018 it is yet to launch a satellite.

Angola: Gabinete de Gestao do Programa Espacial Nacional (GGPEN) was established to manage the National Space Programme and under the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies. It has launched one satellite.

Ghana: Ghana Space Science and Technology Centre coordinates space activities in Ghana and was established in 2012, it has launched one satellite.

Libya: Libya Center for Remote Sensing and Space Science (LCRSSS) established in 1989, is responsible for remote sensing, space, and earthquake sciences. It is yet to launch a satellite.

Gabon: Agence Gabonaise d’Etudes et d’Observations Spatiales (AGEOS) is the Gabonese Space Agency and controls all space activities and remote sensing in the country. It is yet to launch a satellite.

Ethiopia: Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute (ESSTI) was established in 2016 to exploit multi-dimensional uses of space science and technologies. It has launched two satellites.

Data Source: Space In Africa

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Giza Mdoe is an experienced journalist with 10 plus years. He's been a Creative Director on various brand awareness campaigns and a former Copy Editor for some of Tanzania's leading newspapers. He's a graduate with a BA in Journalism from the University of San Jose.

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