(Reuters) – Kenya launched its first operational earth observation satellite on Saturday onboard a SpaceX rocket from the United States, a live feed from Elon Musk’s rocket company showed.
The satellite, developed by nine Kenyan engineers, 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 Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Taifa-1 satellite, took off at about 0648 GMT without incident from Vandenberg Base in California, after three postponements due to bad weather.
“Taifa-1 separation confirmed,” Space X said in its broadcast when the satellite was released about an hour and four minutes after the rocket’s launch.
“We have the challenges that have been brought about by climate change, which the satellite, by virtue of being able to capture images (will be able to help monitor)”, Capt. Alloyce Were, an aeronautical engineer and deputy director of Navigation and Positioning at the government-run Kenya Space Agency, told Reuters on Friday before the satellite’s launch.
“We can monitor forest changes, we can monitor urbanisation changes.”
The satellite was put together with the help of Bulgarian aerospace company Endurosat at a cost of 50 million Kenyan shillings ($372,000) over two years, the 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.
($1 = 134.4500 Kenyan shillings)