Kenya’s first indigenously-built satellite – First Kenyan University Nano Satellite-Precursor Flight (1KUNS-PF) – has been completed and handed over to the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) for launch to the International Space Station (ISS) from where it will be deployed into orbit.
The 1KUNS-PF Cubesat is the first satellite developed under the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA)-Japan KiboCUBE programme, established in 2015 by UNOOSA and JAXA to provide research and academic institutions in developing counties the opportunity to build their own Cubesats. Once built, the KiboCUBE satellites are handed over to JAXA for launch to the Japanese module of the ISS – Kibo – from which they will be deployed into Earth orbit.
1KUNS-PF was built be a team of engineers from the University of Nairobi and is the first Cubesat to be selected and built for the KiboCUBE programme, having been selected in 2016.
On 16 January, 2018, the University of Nairobi handed over the 1KUNS-PF Cubesat to JAXA at the Tsukuba Space Centre in Japan, where it will be prepared for launch to the ISS.
Simonetta Di Pippo, the Director of UNOOSA, said, “The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs is very proud of its partnership with JAXA to provide access to space for developing countries through the innovative KiboCUBE programme. This handover ceremony from the University of Nairobi is a significant step in the first round of this programme, and I look forward the next milestones in this exciting initiative. The KiboCUBE Programme is bound to become a model of collaboration between UNOOSA and its partners to develop the capabilities of developing nations in accessing and using the benefits of space science and technology.”
On behalf of JAXA, Koichi Wakata, JAXA’s ISS programme manager, said, “I am pleased that the small satellite “1 KUNS-PF” developed by the University of Nairobi of the Republic of Kenya, which was jointly selected by UNOOSA and JAXA as the first KiboCUBE, was successfully handed over to JAXA. At JAXA, we are committed to making every effort to prepare for the successful deployment of the Republic of Kenya’s first satellite utilizing the unique capability of the Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo” on the International Space Station.”
The second satellite in the KiboCUBE programme is currently being built by the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala. The third Cubesat project has yet to be selected by UNOOSA and JAXA, and applications from qualified institutions can be submitted no later than 31 March, 2018.