The University of Nairobi, in collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), have developed a nanosatellite, an extremely small satellite in the shape of a 10 cm by 10 cm cube, with the volume of just one litre.

Dr. Jackson Mwangi, an engineer at the University of Nairobi who was involved in the nanosatellite’s development, said the satellite has been handed over to the JAXA Tsukuba Space Centre in Japan in preparation for its deployment. It will be the first selected CubeSat to be deployed from Kibo, which is the Japanese Experiment Module of the International Space Station (ISS), according to the university.

“The 1KUNS-PF (1st Kenyan University Nano Satellite Precursor Flight) is the first satellite to be developed by Kenyans and the first to be operated by a Kenyan university,” Dr Mwangi said in a statement.

The satellite was built through the KiboCUBE programme. The programme was launched in September 2015 by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). In collaboration with JAXA, they offer educational and research institutions from developing countries the opportunity to deploy cube satellites from the International Space Station (ISS).

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The University of Nairobi won the KiboCUBE opportunity over other global institutions in a stiff selection process.

“This is a very exciting moment and an important step in UNOOSA’s movement towards tangible initiatives in our capacity-building efforts. Innovative projects like KiboCUBE can achieve concrete results and have a real impact on space science and technology development for the benefit of all,” said UNOOSA director Simonetta Di Pippo in a statement.

The development of the nanosatellite cost approximately Sh 120 million despite its small size. Miniaturised satellites now have the increased capability of performing commercial missions that previously required larger satellites.

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According to University of Nairobi’s director of corporate affairs, John Orindi, a delegation, led by Kenya’s Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, will travel to witness the event in Japan.

“The deployment ceremony will be done from Kibo Space Centre on 11 May 2018, at about 1pm Kenyan time. The Cabinet Secretary, Ambassador Amina Mohamed, will lead a powerful delegation comprising government officials and university researchers to witness the event live,” he said to the press.

The University of Nairobi’s team said the satellite will be used to test technologies it has developed for the future launch of a larger earth observation satellite. The team also hopes to apply data acquired from the satellite to monitor agriculture and coastal areas.