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Marsabit County Named Most Suitable for launching rockets

Marsabit County Named Most Suitable for launching rockets
May 25, 2022 Eastern Newspaper

A spaceport in Mexico | PHOTO-Courtesy

By Njoki  Kihiu

Marsabit County has been named as the most suitable County to set up a Spaceport.

It was named by Viwanda Africa Group, Longshot Space Technology, and a team of student engineering researchers drawn from Kenyatta and Nairobi universities which examined the viability of establishing a Spaceport in Kenya.

Marsabit emerged the winner from a list of 7 key contenders including Laikipia, Kilifi, Tana River, Isiolo, Turkana, and Narok Counties.

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

Kenyatta University Chairperson, Department of Mechanical Engineering Eng. Victor Mwongera, Principle investigator and aerospace engineer said the report provides a strong initial examination of the viability of establishing a spaceport in Kenya.

The Kenya Spaceport Research, which drew data from various national and global organizations, as well as guidance from the Kenya Space Agency (KSA), carried out an assessment among all the 47 counties where Marsabit County emerged as the most favorable location to set up a Space Port due to its large tracts of unoccupied, affordable land, sparse population density, low trafficked airspace, generally flat terrain and proximity to the LAPPSET corridor.

“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,” Longshot Space Technology CEO Mike Grace said.

Kenya is 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 sh 5 billion, sh 7 billion annual operating costs, and revenue of Ksh 1 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.

The research was conducted on the physical, economic, environmental, social, political, and cultural factors that would be considered for the establishment of a spaceport.

Marsabit is sparsely populated and has readily available vast arid lands, and connectivity to the LAPSSET transport corridor. The existence of restricted military airspace in the northern part of the country, where Marsabit is situated also 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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