History as Taifa-1 satellite goes live

taifa-1 satellite

Some of the Kenyan engineers who worked on the Taifa-1 satellite. From left:  Pattern Odhiambo, the communication subsystem lead; Major Hope Deche, the ground receiver segment lead; and Captain Aloyce Were, the structural and mechanism lead. On the table is the model of Taifa-1 satellite, Kenya's first operational Earth observation satellite. 

Photo credit: Pool

Kenyans will today witness the launch of Taifa-1 satellite from a large screen set up at the University of Nairobi as Falcon-9 rocket lifts off from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, USA, from around 9am.

The rocket is scheduled to transport several satellites including Taifa-1 into orbit, detach and return to the ground all in a span of 8.5 minutes, an experience that will be transmitted live from SpaceX’s Mission Control Centre.

Space experts, students and enthusiasts will follow the event live from a large screen mounted at the University of Nairobi’s Taifa hall where a panel of experts will be explaining the unfolding events and the importance of the satellite to agriculture and the nation’s socio-economic development.

Kenya Space Agency’s technical team will be monitoring the mission at the agency’s headquarters in Nairobi and at the Malindi Space Station.

Members of the public who do not make it to the public event can follow the launch on KSA’s social media handles.

Taifa-1 is a 3U earth observation satellite developed and designed by Kenyans but manufactured at Endurosat in Bulgaria, all in a span of two years, at a cost of sh 50 million.

It is insured by Marsh Limited, a Space and Satellite insurance firm.

There are about six types of artificial satellites in the world which vary in size and altitude deployed depending on purpose. The largest is the International Space Station that serves as a habitable space lab. An earth observation satellite is used to capture images of the earth; some are flown low to produce more detailed images.

Here are important timelines for the launch which could change depending on weather patterns:

April 11: Falcon-9 lifts off the ground station in California at 9:48am.

10:52am: The satellite detaches from the rocket as it deploys into space.

Satellite’s UHF antenna is released immediately after satellite deployment.

The satellite tumbles along the orbit until it is stabilised, this could take a few days.

After a week, the manufacturer will turn on Taifa-1’s onboard computer and other systems to test its readiness for transmission of data.

A week later, the manufacturer will kick off the process of calibration and validation of received data. This will include comparing data received from Taifa-1 with that which has been collected by other satellites to check for differences in quality and similarities.

After a three-month commissioning stage, the ground station in Kasarani shall have been set up to receive data from Taifa-1.

July 2023: The Kasarani ground station is commissioned, setting the stage for local transmission of data collected by the satellite.

The satellite shall be orbiting the earth 15 times every day for the next five years.

During this period, it shall fly over Kenya every four days for less than 10 minutes allowing scientists at the station to download its data.

This, however, does not limit access to its data. As long as the ground station is up and working, the satellite can be commanded to transmit data from any location on the orbit.

After five years, the satellite deorbits and burns up on re-entering the atmosphere.