Kenya to become fifth black African country with satellite in space

Kenya’s first satellite to be deployed into orbit on May 11, 2018.

Kenya will launch its first locally produced satellite into orbit on May 11, 2018, making the East African country the fifth in sub-Saharan Africa to have a satellite in space.

The 10-centimetre CubeSat named the First Kenya University Nano-Satellite – Precursor Flight (1KUNS-PF) was developed by students and researchers of the University of Nairobi in partnership with Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) under the KiboCube programme run by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).

Kenyan and Japanese authorities during the handing over of the satellite for deployment.

The nano-satellite was handed over to the JAXA Tsukuba Space Center in January and it will be deployed on Friday from the Kibo Space Centre, Japan’s own International Space Station (ISS) which is in the experimental stage.

This is the first CubeSat to be deployed from the Kibo Space Centre and it will be done in the presence of a delegation of government officials and university researchers led by Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, the University stated.

As of 2018, only nine countries and one inter-governmental organisation in the world have sent objects including satellites into orbit with their own launch vehicles. They include the European Space Agency, Russia, China and the United States.

No African country has launched satellites into space using its own launch vehicles. However, only four countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have satellites orbiting the earth. Three African satellites were launched into orbit in 2017 alone.

Here are the four other sub-Saharan African countries with satellites in space.

South Africa

South Africa has launched a number of satellites into space including its first biggest private satellite in 2017. The country launched its first satellite in 1999.

The most recent nanosatellite called the nSight1 was launched to capture images with its remote sensing camera. Locally built and designed in South Africa, nSight1 is expected to study the largely unexplored lower thermosphere and send information back to earth.


Ghana launched its first satellite called GhanaSat1 into space last year. It was developed by university students who took two years to design, assemble and test as part of a Japanese space project.

It was launched from the international space station. It has high and low-resolution cameras to take pictures and provide data of the coastal regions of the country.

Its main mission is to investigate radiation effects on satellite systems in space which are degraded due to the harsh space environment.


Nigeria launched two earth observation satellites into space in 2011 for the monitoring of its weather. The NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X satellites were launched into orbit aboard a Russian Dnepr rocket from Yasny, southern Russia.


Late last year, Angola joined the three African countries to launch its first national satellite into space after suffering a brief loss of contact two days after take-off from the Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan.

The AngoSat-1 communications satellite cost $300 million and was built in partnership with Russia to aid in improving telecommunication services, telemedicine and other projects. The development of the satellite started since 2009 and it’s expected to have a working life of about 15 years.

This article by Ismail Akwei was first published on

Published by Ismail Akwei

Ismail Akwei is an international journalist, digital media and communications professional, editor, writer, arts, culture and tourism advocate, human rights activist, pan-Africanist, tech enthusiast and history buff. He has worked with multinational media companies across Africa and has over a decade’s experience in journalism.

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