Kenya Space Sector Formulation—Phase 2

Kenya Space Sector Formulation—Phase 2
Kenya Space Sector Formulation—Phase 2

It is in this phase of the road-map that the Kenya space sector organizational framework is defined. This organizational framework should not only present the constituent stakeholders; but, also elucidate the interaction dynamics between the stakeholders. Consequently, we propose the Kenya space sector organizational chart shown in the schematic below.

Kenya-Organogram_updatedThis initial sector organizational framework is bound to evolve with time as the sophistication of the domestic space sector deepens.

  • Head of state

The interests of all Kenyans are represented by the government through the head of state. The government is the primary stakeholder tasked with drafting a national space policy, enacting a legal and regulatory framework, and, injecting the requisite financial investment. As we stated previously, the national space policy should ensure that space technology directly serves the socioeconomic needs of the masses hence expeditiously lifting their standards of living.

  • Space Commission

The space commission is an eclectic composition of eminent academicians, space industry experts, government technocrats, socioeconomic policy planners, head of ministry of space etc. This commission facilitates formulation of policy and guidelines that promote the growth and application of space science and technology. Among its key tasks is prioritizing national development goals for space based technology application. The commission further promotes effective space sector organization and facilitates high level coordination between other government organs (e.g. line ministries, National Academy of Sciences, National Commission for Science Technology & Innovation etc) and the Ministry of Space.

  • Ministry of Space

This ministry would oversee the implementation of space technology in the country by directing the activities of the designated national space technology executing agencies under its supervision. Additionally, this ministry would also coordinate relevant activities between other government organs and the respective space technology implementing agencies. In summary, this ministry is the principal custodian if the national space program. The head of Ministry of Space would be in charge of day to day implementation of space technology, be part of the space commission and report directly to the head of state.

To effectively implement the national space aspirations, three agencies and two councils are initially proposed.

  • Kenya Space Agency

The space agency will spearhead the integration of space technology in the country through research, innovation and execution of the space program. This agency is envisioned to play the primary role in advancing technical competence and implementation of space technology in the country. To accomplish this task, the agency would have to enjoy intellectual autonomy, cultivate a culture rooted in world-best practices and nurture a conducive environment that consistently spurs innovation.

Apart from having an administrative headquarters (probably located in Nairobi) to oversee its core technological activities, the agency would implement the Kenya space program in centers distributed across the country. These centers will be segmented according to a particular main area of space technology specialization. To begin with, we propose the agency to establish five national research and development centers and, an educational and outreach office. These centers are highlighted below the Kenya Space Agency in the sector organizational chart shown above.

  1. Launch Vehicles and Propulsion Center:  This center will focus on the research and development of a launch capability, space propulsion and space transportation systems. It will be the primary center tasked with building an indigenous rocket(s). A potential location for this center could be in the vicinity of the existing San Marco launch facility in Malindi   for reasons we stated earlier.
  1. Space Systems Technology Center: The core specialization of this center will be research and development in spacecraft systems engineering, space information networks, ground control and related systems. It is here that technologies for actual space platforms will be researched, tested and integrated into full functioning spacecraft systems. Further, information and communication technologies to monitor and control these spacecraft would be developed here. A potential location for this center is western Kenya in close proximity to Masinde Muliro University; this would further stimulate high-tech innovation in the region.
  1. Master Ground Operations Center: The primary purpose for this center would be to conduct mission planning, ground operations, and, Launch & Early Orbit Phase (LEOP) activities. This centre will further operate and maintain the necessary ground segment infrastructure including Telemetry Tracking and Command (TT&C) network. Additional TT&C earth stations  at different locations are envisaged to be highly likely. The Naivasha/Longonot area could offer a favorable location for such a center.
  1. Earth Observation Science Center: Remote scientific earth observation involves studying and monitoring the earth’s atmosphere, water bodies, gravity, magnetism, etc in order to help us understand our planet. This center will hence spearhead science research and technological innovation necessary to achieve this goal. It will be responsible for developing the relevant instruments (payloads); analyze and then interpret the acquired scientific data. Areas in close proximity to Nakuru or Eldoret could provide ideal locations for such a campus.
  1. The Space Science Center: Space science center will conduct scientific studies that explore the solar system and deep space in general. This will involve sending orbiting and landing probes (e.g. rovers) to other celestial bodies with payloads to study astronomy, planetary science, space particles and radiation etc. The science research at this center will be focus on understanding the origins of the universe, formation and evolution of the solar system using in-situ and remote instruments. The center will also be responsible for developing the deep space communication network essential for long distance communications. The locations in central Kenya near Mt. Kenya would host the space science center.
  1. Education and Outreach Office: Located within the Kenya Space Agency headquarters (with branch offices in all the centers), this office will be responsible for creating awareness about the space agency’s work to the public. In addition, this office will reach out to students at all levels of  the educational institutions to coordinate faculty research visits, internship opportunities and promote the pursuit of aerospace careers.
  • National Remote Sensing Agency

As the name suggest, this agency will be responsible for space-based remote sensing in the country. In coordination with the Kenya National Space Agency, this agency will facilitate the development of remote sensing spacecraft and operate the spacecraft in orbit. Further, it will receive process and disseminate remote sensing data. Consequently, value addition to raw data through services like Geographical Information Systems (GIS) will be a critical attribute of this agency. If viable, one way to cost–effectively nurture this crucial capability is by strengthening The Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) functions and bolstering its technical capability. This may include instituting new capabilities like designing of space-borne remote sensing instruments, owning and operating remote-sensing spacecraft, improved in-house data value-adding and distribution networks etc. If RCMRD formation charter prohibits such a move, then the National Remote Sensing Agency will have to be established from scratch and cultivate collaboration mechanisms with national and regional institutions like the RCMRD.

  • National Meteorology Agency

This institution will be an enhanced equivalent of the existing Kenya Meteorological Service. Unlike its current predecessor, this revamped outfit would lay more emphasis on the development and utilization of the unequaled space-based weather monitoring capability. Terrestrial instruments would then act as secondary data sources and augment the orbiting instruments. Consequently, an in-house proficiency to develop, operate and exploit space-borne weather observation platforms would have to be initiated.

  • Commercial Space Enterprises Promotion Council

Ever since the beginning of modern space era, the capability to access space has always been the preserve of government funded and led programs. However, over the last ten years, a dramatic shift has been witnessed following the proliferation of this domain by individual private entrepreneurial companies. This has given rise to a global commercial space sector in which privately owned companies strive to provide access to space for both humans and spacecraft at a competitive cost vis-à-vis government-led programs. Some of the services they offer include human and spacecraft launch services, sub-orbital spaceflight, space tourism, asteroid mining, space burials, manufacturing in space etc. Examples of such entities include; Space Exploration Technologies Corporation ( SpaceX), Bigelow Aerospace, Virgin Galactic, Zero G Corporation, XCor Aerospace etc. Kenya should strive to attract investment from such companies by offering appropriate incentives and facilitate the establishment of a spaceport using mechanism akin to those employed in the building of Konza technology city. The Commercial Space Enterprises Promotion Council would hence be primarily tasked with attracting and fostering investment from global commercial space companies and also promote domestic commercial space activities.

  • National Space Education Council

This council will be tasked with promoting and coordinating aerospace education in the country. In conjunction with the relevant educational stakeholders (e.g. Ministry of Education, local universities, etc), the council would facilitate the introduction and strengthening of aerospace technology curriculum in institutions of higher learning. Bachelor of Science programs would be inaugurated first then later followed by masters and PhD level programs. Moreover, the National Space Education Council would oversee the establishment of a National Space University modeled along the lines of International Space University (ISU) and SUPAERO in France. This institution will be a graduate-level school specializing in space science & technology research, space policy & law; and space technology management.

In conclusion, Kenya will still be at User level during this phase. The immediate and long-term technological focus areas should also be identified at this stage. We propose satellite engineering, earth observation and acquiring launch capability to be given priority.


10 thoughts on “Kenya Space Sector Formulation—Phase 2

  1. Getting even /one/ mission launched again from San Marco would have significant symbolic value, at least.

    For a space science center near Mt. Kenya, Nanyuki might be about right. There is already some metereological equipment nearby, an observatory could be a good thing to add.

    Consider Mt. Elgon as well. (Eldoret within range of it.) East Africa unity may be coming, and there should be early talks about a space program as a regional unifier, I think. Kenya being named for its highest mountain, it’s appropriate, nationally, for something in Kenya’s space program to be sited there. But Kenya may yet be the lead actor in an East Africa Space Agency (by analogy to ESA.)

    And thanks for cross-posting at the Project Persephone Facebook group. I see I’m getting you into the habit. 😉

    Speaking of which, your input on this poll would be greatly appreciated:

  2. Thanks Michael,
    An East Africa Space Agency seems enticing on paper… However, given the mistrust legacy of the defunct East African Community and the stuttering implementation of simpler common obligations e.g custom union, I cringe at the idea. The diparate political ideologies would stifle the space technology idea.
    Besides, even within ESA, things are not that rosy and often the science plays second fiddle to bullish conflicting individual member national interests…


  3. Hi Peter, good stuff and well thought out proposal. You should consider putting all these ideas in print (book). If Kenya is not ready to embrace space technology, any other country at a similar stage in development could benefit. Have followed your posts and am impressed.

    My two cents, the Ministry of Space should be immediate from head of state, then after ministry, the council. RCMRD might not be the appropriate body because it is a regional body, the Kenyan equivalent is the Department of Remote Sensing and Resources Survey (DRSRS).

    There is a proposal to set up a Government Investment Corporation (GIC) to oversee all the operations of the government parastatals so in effect that would alter the structure a bit, but the main picture remains the same. Again, great insight and work you doing.

    Keep it going.

  4. Hello Charles,
    Thank you for your feedback. I highly appreciate it. The book idea is intriguing indeed.

    1. Oh Yes, I noted the possibility of a non-seamless RCMRD revamp by saying …
    ” … If viable, one way to cost–effectively nurture this crucial capability is by strengthening The Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD)… ”
    ” … If RCMRD formation charter prohibits such a move, then the National Remote Sensing Agency will have to be established from scratch and cultivate collaboration mechanisms with national and regional institutions like the RCMRD. ”

    2. Thank you for bringing DRSRS to my attention. Therefore, DRSRS will have to be the institution that gets promoted to a full autonomous agency under the ministry of space, and the ministry of environment then becomes one of its many customers.

    3. I think your concerns about reporting hierarchy are valid. The person in charge of the ministry should report directly to the president. The space commission serves more of an advisory board and the minster of space will be part of it too. It is not charged with overseeing actual implementation of space technology. The schematic seems to imply that the minister reports to the Space commission and not the President. I’ll update this. Thank you for bringing that out.

    Lets Keep the conversation going.
    P. Waswa

  5. From Patrick Kathambana (Via Email)
    Hi Peter,
    Came across your blog and I was very impressed. It was amazing to learn that a Kenyan space sector is a possibility within my lifetime and its great to hear it discussed so soberly and intelligently.

    Just wanted to tell you to keep up the good work.

    PS. Upon hearing about the Futron proposal for a Spaceport I was inspired to create the attached image. Thought I’d share it.

    Kind regards,

    Patrick Kathambana

  6. A group of scientists in America inspired by Nicola Tesla started off as a simple tech club and they would share their ideas and make prototypes of their inventions. Soon they achieved great things and I believe we can achieve great things in a similar manner.

    1. Of course Paul.that’s true.Kenya has a very great potential in space exploration.All we need is (1:General awareness
      2:Govt/PPP support
      3:Unity of astronomy aggressive ppl.
      We will then go up high.

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