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Region set to ring-fence commercial orbital space

By Seth Onyango
Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

Kenya and 30 other African countries yesterday launched a fresh bid to protect their orbital slots for future deployment of satellite for agriculture and other uses that could spur commerce and safety.

This follows reports that vantage slots previously allocated for African spacecrafts were being encroached by developed nations as the continent looks the other way.

Commercial use of space is the provision of goods or services using equipment sent into earth orbit or outer space.

Examples of the commercial use of space include satellite navigation, satellite television and commercial imagery.

Orbital location

Speaking yesterday, space experts from 31 nations on the continent assembled in Nairobi to generate satellite notices in line with the World Radio-communication Conferences (WRCs) 2019, African Telecommunications Union (Atu) Secretary General John Omo told Business Hub that a new mapping of orbital location is needed for the region future satellite deployments.

“The sort of plan that we have envisaged is one that is equitable, that brings everybody on board in particular the 31 affected countries, to know what slot each will occupy,” he said.

WRC-19 is the world’s principal framework for the management of the radio spectrum and satellite orbital resources. Following the conference, notices will be submitted to Itu, a UN agency, that regulates satellite frequencies and orbital slots in geostationary orbit on May 21.

Global positioning system (GPS) capabilities have reshaped communication and travel by guiding systems implanted in cars, trucks, ships and smartphones.

Streaming media, near-instant face-to face communication across international borders and real-time news feeds, are as a result of space technology.

Space technology has also enhanced weather prediction and notification services, saving countless lives through early warnings and enhanced responses.

Digital dividend

Various proposed guidelines on the harmonisation of the digital dividend spectrum usage on are seen as key to promoting maximised economies of scale.

Crucially, the proposed guidelines is geared to promote expedited growth of mobile broadband – a crucial element in the continued and sustainability of social economic growth in Africa.

States with plans for space explorations are limited in their choice of parking spots because there are only 1,800 available spaces in the geostationary orbit, located some 35,786 kilometres above the earth’s equator and revolve at the same rate as the earth’s rotation.

Although the allocation of a slot does not come with ownership rights, it grants an operator exclusive rights to the resource for the lifetime of its satellite (often 15 years).

Kenya, South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria, Morocco, Ghana, Angola and Ethiopia are African countries that have launched satellites into space.

Already plans are afoot for Kenya to deploy a bigger satellite by 2030 to help in weather forecasting and early warning systems. Early warning systems use satellite remote sensing data to supplement ground-based observations.

In 2018, Kenya launched into space a miniature satellite assembled by University of Nairobi, dubbed Nano Satellite – Precursor Flight (1KUNS-PF).

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