US eyes space cooperation deals with Nairobi on sidelines of UN assembly


Screenshots of Taifa-1, Kenya's first operational earth observation satellite to be launched to space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, US on April 15, 2023. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NMG

The US plans to pitch space cooperation opportunities to Kenya next week when a top official visits the East African nation, signalling possible outer space partnerships between the two nations.

US acting Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Jennifer R. Littlejohn will make the pitch to Kenya on the sidelines of the sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly scheduled to take place in Nairobi between February 26 and March 1.

“In Kenya, she will lead the US delegation to the sixth UN Environment Assembly to promote global cooperation to address shared environmental challenges, promote gender equality; and address global issues such as the climate, biodiversity, and pollution crises,” said the US State Department in a statement.

“She will also discuss opportunities for space cooperation with Kenyan officials.”

Kenya last April launched its first operational earth observation satellite from the US’ Vandenberg Base in California, on board a rocket owned by Elon Musk’s company SpaceX.

The satellite named Taifa-1 was developed by nine Kenyan engineers and will collect agricultural and environmental data, including on floods, drought, and wildfires, that authorities plan to use for disaster management and to combat food insecurity.

The satellite was put together with the help of Bulgarian aerospace company Endurosat for Sh50 million over two years, the Kenya Space Agency said.

The agency says it will operate for five years and then decay over 20 years, entering the atmosphere and burning out.

The launch rocket had 50 payloads from other countries, including Turkey, under SpaceX’s rideshare programme.

Kenya is fast adopting satellite technology to safeguard households against the socio-economic impact of climate-change-induced phenomena such as droughts and floods.

Kenya’s first index-based agriculture insurance pilot took place in 2006 and the government and private sector players have since expanded such schemes.

The insurance cover provides compensation where payments are linked to easily measurable environmental conditions, an index, for example, precipitation level, yields or vegetation levels measured by satellite.

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