Kenya seeks more collaborations in space science technology

Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale (second right) cuts a ribbon to open the three-day Kenya Space Expo and Conference 2024 at South C, Nairobi as India's High Commissioner to Kenya Namgya Khampa, Italian Ambassador to Kenya Roberto Natali and Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Environment Soipan Tuya look on. [James Wanzala, Standard]

The government will continue to pursue more partnerships and collaborations to build capacity for exploring space science technology opportunities.

Cabinet Secretary for Defence Aden Duale said this on Tuesday when he opened a three-day Kenya Space Expo and Conference 2024 in Nairobi's South C.

The event is dedicated to advancing the conversation around space technologies and their transformative impact in society.

“I am happy to note that in the spirit of intra-Africa cooperation, and as envisioned in the AU Agenda 2063, Kenya is already actively pursuing collaboration initiatives on peaceful uses of outer space with partner states,” said Duale.

The collaboration is aimed at developing indigenous capacity in space systems engineering besides enhancing utilisation of space services, technologies and applications in socio-economic development through joint projects.

The CS said through the partnership with Egypt and Uganda, they have developed an imaging system that will be hosted on the International Space Station for monitoring climate change.

Further, he said Kenya is collaborating with Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, Sudan and Uganda to build an earth observation satellite for environmental monitoring in the region.

“These are just but only a few of the many initiatives we are undertaking in partnership with states, regional bodies and international organisations, not just to build capacity, but also facilitate regional economic integration,” he said.

Kenya for the first time in April last year launched earth observation satellite Taifa-1 into space after two aborted attempts.

The Taifa-1 was among the satellites on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, which lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

The CS also lauded the partnership between Kenya and Italy on matters of space.

"In this regard, we value the long-standing strategic relationship Kenya continues to enjoy with the Italian Republic in collaboration on peaceful uses of  outer space through the Luigi Broglio-Malindi Space Centre,” he said.

Kenya has Luigi Broglio Space Center (BSC), an Italian-owned spaceport near Malindi, named after its founder and Italian space pioneer Luigi Broglio and built in 1960s through a partnership between the Sapienza University of Rome’s Aerospace Research Centre and NASA.

The CS said at the Malindi facility, plans are underway to establish a Centre for Earth Observation with assistance from the Italian Space Agency, which will provide Kenya with access to numerous earth observation and remote sensing datasets and processing capabilities for decision support and planning.

Further, the Italian Space Agency will also establish an International Training Centre for Space Education and a Centre for Cubesat Development intended for the training and apprenticeship of budding engineers on space systems engineering, and other specialisations.

Environment Cabinet Secretary Soipan Tuya underscored the benefits of space exploration.

“We have now advanced to near real-time monitoring of various resources. Our goal is to escalate this capability to real-time monitoring of environmental indicators, including deforestation, water levels, and pollutants. This allows the government to detect hazards swiftly and implement remedial actions, thereby enhancing environmental supervision and enforcement,” said Tuya.

She said going forward, real-time monitoring of the restoration efforts will be crucial to track and ensure the success of the initiative.

Italy Ambassador to Kenya Roberto Natali said the partnership between Kenya and Italy is well exemplified by the Luigi Brogolio Malindi Space Centre.

“It stands as a unique model of international space cooperation. Operated by the Italian Space Agency in partnership with Kenya Space Agency, it supports several international space missions by providing essential tracking and telemetry services and scientific data acquisition,” said Natali.

He said education and training are fundamental elements of the partnership, which has been underscored by the establishment of the International School of Training in space-related disciplines in Malindi.

“Educational institutions like this help to build local capacity, ensuring a skilled workforce to support and sustain space activities. Inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers and explorers is crucial in for sustaining long-term growth,” he added.

Brig Hillary Kipkosgey, director general of Kenya Space Agency said through the conference, they hope to create awareness and simplify the space science technology to demonstrate its usefulness and investment lucrativeness among Kenyans.