Kenya plans to launch its first locally made nanosatellite, a co-creation of the University of Nairobi and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), from the International Space Station (ISS) in May. The small satellite is a 10 cm by 10 cm cube, with the volume of just one litre.
According to Jackson Mwangi, a University of Nairobi engineer involved in the nanosatellite’s development, the satellite has been handed over to the JAXA Tsukuba Space Centre in Japan in preparation for its deployment on 11 May 2018 at about 1pm Kenyan time.
In anticipation of the deployment date, the University stated that the nanosatellite will be the first selected CubeSat to be deployed from Kibo, the Japanese Experiment Module of the International Space Station (ISS).
In 2015, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) launched a KiboCUBE programme. The programme in collaboration with JAXA, offered educational and research institutions from developing countries the opportunity to deploy cube satellites from the International Space Station (ISS). Through the KiboCUBE programme, Kenya’s first Nano Satellite Precursor Flight, 1KUNS-PF, came to fruition.
Despite its small size, the nanosatellite cost approximately Sh120 million ($1.2 million). Previously, increased capability used to perform commercial missions required larger satellites. However, miniaturised satellites now can perform same function.
For the launch, the University director of corporate affairs, John Orindi and a delegation led by Kenya’s Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, will travel to witness the event in Japan.
“The deployment ceremony will be done from Kibo Space Center on 11 May 2018, at about 1pm Kenyan time. The Cabinet Secretary, Ambassador Amina Mohamed, will lead a powerful delegation comprising government officials and university researchers to witness the event live,” Orindi confirmed.
The satellite will be used to test technologies developed by the University of Nairobi for the future launch of a larger earth observation satellite. Also, the university hopes to apply data acquired from the satellite to monitor agriculture and coastal areas. The University team stated.