The Kenya Space Agency (KSA) has allocated Sh20 million in the current financial year for the development and launch of small satellites into space.
The agency says allocation which translates to 10pc of its budget in the financial year 2021/2022 will go into the research and development of nanosatellites.
On Tuesday, KSA awarded a consortium of four universities a Research Grant to develop a 3U Nanosatellite Model, which is worth Ksh 3 million(USD 26,773) for the FY 2020/2021.
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.
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“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 the 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.
Last year, four universities including Moi University were granted Kshs. 1 million each to develop a smaller satellite prototype also known as 1U Nanosatellite, a basic satellite model with all the functional subsystems of a typical satellite with an onboard payload to perform one of the 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 was evaluated by a panel of independent judges.
“What we are witnessing today is an effort by the KSA towards the 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.
The KSA also awarded a Research Grant to explore the potential of AI/ML in mapping crops under small scale farms. The proposed Research Grant award on the Small-Scale Crop Mapping using AI/ML is Ksh 2.5 million (USD 22,292) and with five beneficiary Universities each to receive Ksh 500,000 (USD 4,458). The FIVE beneficiary Universities are;
“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 78pc of total agricultural production and 70pc 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.
The KSA also launched a Research Grant for the development of a Land Cover Data Collection Mobile App, available on both Android and iPhone devices. It will provide an elaborate platform hosting customisable questionnaires to record observations in the field. Furthermore, it will also offer the functionality to store the observation in the device and remotely in a database.
The proposed RG award on Land Cover Data Collection Mobile Application will be worth Ksh 1.5 million (USD 13,375) and with three beneficiaries from Start-up companies (in the Private Sector) with less than 2 years in operation. The best three start-up companies will each receive a Research Grant of Ksh 500,000 (USD 4,458). Each Start-up Company will develop a Land Cover Data Collection Mobile app, accessible on both Android and iPhone mobile 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.