Ministry of Defence Lead Scientist Dr. John Kimani gives opening remarks during the Space Forum dabbed “The African Chapter” Opening Ceremony in Nairobi on Tuesday 13th February 2018.
The Ministry of Defence, Kenya held the first ever space forum in Africa, the one day event dubbed International Space Forum- African Chapter, attracted more than 50 international and regional delegates and at least 100 space participants drawn from various sectors of Kenya.
In her first appearance, since her re-appointment as Cabinet Secretary for Defence, Amb. Raychelle Omamo traced the history of space science and technology in Kenya, to 1964 when Kenya partnered with Italy in setting up the San Marco Equatorial Mobile Range – a Rocket Launching Base in Malindi. Since its inception, the base has placed small to medium sized satellites in orbits about the equator through the assistance of the Italian Space Commission of the National Council of Research and the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She added that, besides launching of satellites, the space centre undertakes telemetry, tracking and control for purpose of Scientific Research, including Remote Sensing activities and tracking of satellite launches from other launch sites.
The forum discussed, capacity building, environmental sustainability and space partnerships through three experts. Dr. Simonetta Di Pippo the Director, United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs weighed in on the aspect of space partnerships and diplomacy and the peaceful uses of outer space. She spoke of UNOOSA’s advocacy for space by coordination of the development, operation, utilization of space related infrastructure, data and services around the globe. She affirmed that the global partnerships will involve institutional and private actors with an aim to close gaps that are preventing countries from making full use of space aspects.
Prof Dr. Jan Woerner, Director General of the European Space Agency discussed the need foe environmental sustainability. In his address he lauded African participation in projects on Earth observation satellite data and in the operations of down range telemetry ground stations. He also called for ensuring that the demands placed on the environment can be met without altering the capacity of allowing people to live well, now and in the future, in line with the United Nations – Sustainable Development Goals.
Dr, Valanathan Munsami, the chair of the African Union Working Group on Space and the CEO of South African national Space Agency, underscored the value of formalising an African Space programme which will support academia, research and technological development.
More than fifteen African states issued statements in reaction to the presentations as well as apprised the participants of their advancement in space technology.
The Kenyan statement highlighted that over the years, the San Marco Station has had, 20 twenty sounding rockets and 9 satellites launched from the Space centre. The Space sector has expanded and multiple government and private entities have embraced the utilization of space-derived data in fields of observation and applications such as; meteorology for weather forecasting is critical in determining when to plant crops, and if drought is imminent put mitigation measures in place; the exploration of natural resources by identifying, mapping and monitoring our natural resources for reasonable exploitation, environmental disaster caution, preparedness and awareness; telemedicine; navigation services, and other satellite services such as telecommunications.
The availability of this technology notwithstanding, CS Omamo acknowledged that “Africa is challenged in the areas of food security, access to water, health services, employment growth rate industrialization, the management of natural resources, securing our border and the sustainability of our environment”, a myriad of socio-economic challenges which may find solutions in the advancement of space related applications.
The capability of space technology remains enormous; this informed the establishment of the Kenya Space Agency under the Ministry of Defence, to coordinate the activities of the space industry in Kenya.
It is anticipated, that the establishment of the Kenya Space Agency in the Ministry of Defence will create a central body to advice, co-ordinate and regulate space activities in the country.
The Ministry has embarked on working with the stakeholders in the sector to lay the foundation for the growth of a truly indigenous space sector. CS Omamo, expressed the need for Africa to work together to benefit the region in maximizing the utilization of space derived data for societal development.
She acknowledged that the Space requires substantial capital investment and this has been identified as part reason of Africa not being active players in the space sector.
The role of academia in developing concepts, scientific discoveries and technological advancement cannot be gainsaid. The application of this knowledge in solving the socio-economic problems afflicting our continent should now transcend institutions, policies and boundaries, for a sustainable shared vision of a greater Africa, free from hunger, poverty and conflict.
Speaking at the sidelines of the forum, Dr John Kimani, the Ministry of Defence lead scientist, reiterated that Kenya is Keen to support African initiatives that will advance the growth of the space sector within the region. A key example of such initiatives includes the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project which is a collection of thousands of radio antennas with an area equivalent to one square kilometre of collecting area. The Longonot satellite antenna has been identified as a candidate antenna for conversion into a radio antenna and is anticipated to be Kenya’s contribution towards this objective.
He added that Kenya is also contributing to the African Resource and Environmental Management Constellation (ARMC), a Collaboration involving Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Algeria that is meant to develop a constellation of satellite data to support effective environmental and resource management in Africa. Such an initiative has potential to ignite a technology revolution which would, and is anticipated to immensely benefit our region in term of building the requisite human capacity, create jobs for the people in the space industry and other support industries as well as lead to having spin- off companies and technologies from such ventures.
Space activities in Kenya are sector placed in a number of Government agencies and institutions that play a key role in the utilization of space applications these include: Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Education Science and Technology, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning, Ministry of Mining, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Tourism, Directorate of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing, Kenya Metrological Department, Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, Survey of Kenya, Communications Authority of Kenya, National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation and Institution of Higher Learning among others.
Defence Cabinet Secretary Ambassador Raychelle Omamo addressing the delegation during the opening ceremony of the Space Forum dabbed “The African Chapter”.
Delegates and invited guests keenly following the presentations during the event.
Defence Cabinet Secretary Ambassador Raychelle Omamo, President of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) Professor Robert Battiston and the Defence Principal Secretary Torome Saitoti going through some photos at the gallery.
Defence Cabinet Secretary Ambassador Raychelle Omamo introduces the ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru to President of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) Prof. Robert Battiston and the Director General of the European Space Agency Prof. Dr. Jan Woerner.
President of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) Prof. Robert Battiston addressing the delegation.
Maroon Commandos entertaining the guests at the Gala Dinner during the event.