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Space agency commits Kshs. 20M for satellite development

The Kenya Space Agency (KSA) has allocated Kshs. 20 million in the current financial year for development and launch of small satellites into space.

The agency says allocation which translates to 10% of its budget in the financial year 2021/2022 will go into research and development of nanosatellites.

On Tuesday, KSA awarded a consortium of four universities with Kshs. 3 million Research Grant for development of 3U Nanosatellite, an Operational Space Weather System to be launched into orbit by the agency.

The universities include the University of Nairobi (UoN), Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and Technical University of Kenya (TUK).

 The 3U Nanosatellite is expected to help Kenya address key socio-economic challenges.

“Food security remains a pressing concern in Kenya and the greater Eastern Africa region. Space based platforms have proven to be highly versatile and effective in providing data and information useful for decision-making in management of natural resources through mapping, environmental monitoring, weather forecasting, precision agriculture, and early warning systems for natural disaster mitigation, such as droughts and floods, including monitoring of movement of large swarms of destructive pests such as the desert locusts,” said Dr. Ibrahim Mohamed, Principal Secretary for Defence.

KSA Chairman Major General (Rtd) James Aruasa (L) and Dr. Ibrahim Mohamed, Principal Secretary for Defence. PHOTO | Jackson Mnyamwezi

Last year, the four universities including Moi University were granted Kshs. 1 million each to develop a smaller satellite prototype also know as 1U Nanosatellite, a basic satellite model with all the functional subsystems of a typical satellite with an onboard payload to perform one of typical satellite applications such as Earth Observation and Remote Sensing, Communications, Weather Forecasting, or Navigation and Positioning.

Upon development of the prototypes, the teams demonstrated the functionality of their 1U satellite models during field evaluations conducted on October 14, 2021 at the Konza Technopolis site which were evaluated by a panel of independent judges.

University student demonstrates functionalities of a small satellites. PHOTO | Jackson Mnyamwezi

“What we are witnessing today is an effort by the KSA towards promotion of interest, and in particular research and development, in space science and technologies in our institutions of higher learning. Through these Research Grants, the Agency targets the development of the most important resource in any enterprise – the human capital.

Through this linkage with our institutions of higher learning, the Agency seeks to promote research and innovation in space systems engineering that is vital for the development of our national space capability,” said Major General (Rtd) James Aruasa.

KSA has further granted a total of Kshs. 2.5 million to five universities that received Kshs. 500,00 each for the development of Small Scale Crop Mapping satellite which uses Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

“The object of this second research on Small-Scale Crop Mapping is to leverage earth observation and remote sensing services to develop an application that maps crops under small-scale farming, which account for approximately 78% of total agricultural production and 70% of commercial production in Kenya,” said Col. Hillary Kipkosgey, KSA Acting Director General.

The five beneficiaries include Deda Kimahi University of Technology, Taita Taveta University, Egerton University, JKUAT and UoN.

PHOTO | Jackson Mnyamwezi

Three private Kenyan startups in space technology development with less than two years in operation also stand a chance to win Kshs. 1.5 million for the development of a Land Cover Data Collection Mobile Application for iOS and Android devices.

The app will be used to provide an elaborate platform hosting customizable questionnaires to be used to record observations in the field as well as store the collected data in the mobile device and a remote database.

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