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Kenya Launches Its First Earth Observation Satellite, After Postponing It Thrice

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Kenya sent its first operational earth observation satellite, Taifa-1 satellite, into space, on Saturday, carried by a SpaceX rocket from the United States, shown during a live feed from Elon Musk’s rocket company.

Taifa is a Swahili word meaning “nation” in English. 

The satellite was developed by nine Kenyan engineers and is designed to gather agricultural and environmental data, including floods, drought, and wildfires, that is said to aid the authorities’ plan for disaster management and tackle food insecurity.

After being postponed thrice due to inappropriate climate, the Taifa-1 satellite onboard Falcon 9 rocket blasted off at about 0648 GMT (10:48 MUT) from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

The Kenya Space Agency made history by launching Taifa 1 to deal with ecological challenges like the climate crisis. 

After the rocket was launched, the satellite was released into space about an hour and four minutes, Space X said in its broadcast, “Taifa-1 separation confirmed.”

Before the satellite’s launch, Capt Alloyce Were, an aeronautical engineer and deputy director of Navigation and Positioning at the government-run Kenya Space Agency, informed the British news agency Reuters, “We have the challenges that have been brought about by climate change, which the satellite, by being able to capture images (will be able to help monitor). We can monitor forest changes, we can monitor urbanization changes.”

A Bulgarian aerospace company, Endurosat, helped to assemble the satellite for 50 million Kenyan shillings ($372,000) within two years, the space agency said.

The agency stated that the satellite will function for five years and then decay over 20 years, to burn out on entering the atmosphere. The launch rocket consisted of 50 payloads from other countries, including Turkey, under SpaceX’s rideshare program.

In 1998, Egypt was the first country in Africa to launch a satellite while Kenya launched its first experimental nano-satellite from the International Space Station in 2018, as per local media reports. 

According to Space in Africa, a Nigerian-based agency that follows the progress of space programs in the continent, it reports that about 13 African countries manufactured 48 satellites by 2022.

Space in Africa stated that over 50 satellites have been launched from Africa as of November 2022, though none launched from its soil, and in January, the Djibouti government signed a deal with a Hong Kong based-company to develop a $1 billion commercial spaceport which is projected to complete in over five years.

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