Kenya is set to join the ranks of African countries with operational satellites in orbit when it launches Taifa-1 next week.
Taifa-1, which means one nation in Swahili, is an observation satellite that will provide data on agriculture and food security, among other areas, according to the defence ministry and Kenya Space Agency.
The satellite was fully designed and developed by Kenyan engineers and will be launched on April 10 on board the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
The mission is an important milestone for the country’s budding space economy and a landmark achievement for its space programme, which started in 2018 with the launch of its first experimental nanosatellite from the International Space Station.
Kenya, East Africa’s economic powerhouse, is suffering its worst drought in decades after five failed rainy seasons and hopes that the satellite will help improve its resilience and response to climate change.
Kenya is among at least 13 African countries that have manufactured 48 satellites as of 2022, according to Space in Africa, a Nigeria-based firm that tracks African space programmes. They include Egypt, which was the first African country to send a satellite into space in 1998, Ethiopia, Angola, South Africa, Sudan and others.
More than 50 African satellites have been launched as of November 2022, although none from African soil. However, that could change soon as Djibouti plans to build a $1bn commercial spaceport in collaboration with a Hong Kong-based company that is expected to take five years to complete.