Kenyans will now be able to launch rockets into space

Who will be the first Kenyan to travel to space?

The SpaceX Falcon Heavy launches from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on February 6, 2018, on its demonstration mission. - (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Marsabit County has emerged as the most suitable county in Kenya to set up a spaceport. A spaceport is a site for launching spacecraft, similar to a seaport for ships or an airport for aircraft.

Marsabit County emerged as the most favourable location to set up a spaceport due to its large tracts of unoccupied, affordable land, sparse population density, low trafficked airspace, generally flat terrain and proximity to the LAPPSET corridor.

Speaking while receiving the report, Kenya Space Agency (KSA) Acting Director General Col. Hillary B. Kipkosgey says the benefits of establishing a spaceport capable of launching rockets within Kenya are numerous and would positively impact on the growth of the country.

“The development of highly innovative industries such as this provides current and future employment opportunities in many sectors, and the potential for growth in supporting industries.

Development of such a spaceport would also foster research, innovation and growth of knowledge within this country, rippling out to Kenya taking the lead globally as a significant player in the space sector,” noted Col. Kipkosgey.

Additionally, “The Space sector requires innovative, committed and forward thinking minds; something our young people have in abundance. This is therefore an area Kenya can grow and lead in."

Viwanda Africa CEO Nyambura Kamau noted the interest to carry out the survey in Kenya originated from the geographic advantages the country sits on as a potential launch site: an interest shared by the US based space start-up company Long Shot.

“If you look at a World map you see that Kenya is among 6 or 7 countries in the world with ideal placement for a space launch.

After researching Kenya and paying a visit to Nairobi, I discovered a further advantage the nation has which may make it unique in the world; its people,” noted Longshot Space Technology CEO Mike Grace.

Kenya is located in a geographically advantageous position due to its lateral coordinates. Its location on the equator provides a space vehicle being launched from Kenya with a “speed boost” equivalent to an additional speed of 1,650 km/h, due to the earth’s rotation. This allows the launch vehicle to save energy and carry heavier payloads into space.

According to the report, it’s estimated that the initial stage of the Spaceport construction will cost sh5 billion, sh7 billion annual operational costs and revenue of sh1 billion per launch with an estimate of 5 launches within the first year of construction and an exponential rise to 60 launches by the 10th year of operation.

A decision matrix was then used to analyze the 47 counties in Kenya based on the primary factors which affect the location of a spaceport (availability of land and population density) for the purpose of narrowing down to a select 7 counties for further analysis.

A PESTEL and SWOT analysis was then conducted on the 7 counties, and a second decision matrix conducted on them. Based on these analyses, Marsabit County was identified as the ideal location for a spaceport.

Marsabit is sparsely populated, has readily available, vast arid lands, and connectivity to the LAPSSET transport corridor. The sparse population in Marsabit makes it easier to launch vehicles to space without huge disruption to normal air traffic.

However, there may be a need to construct additional supporting infrastructure such as roads, boreholes and solar farms, the report indicated.

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