The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) released three foreign-made microsatellites, including the first Kenyan-developed satellite, from its Kibo experimental module at the International Space Station on Friday night.
The Kenyan satellite, named 1KUNS-PF, was developed by the University of Nairobi.
Another, called Irazu, is the first developed by Costa Rica. The third one, named Ubakusat, was developed by Turkey’s Istanbul Technical University.
The three microsatellites were transported to the ISS by a U.S. spacecraft last month. Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai, 41, who began his six-month ISS mission last December, had been preparing for the deployments.
Amina Mohamed, cabinet secretary for Kenya’s Ministry of Education, watched the satellite’s deployment from the control room of JAXA’s Tsukuba Space Center in Ibaraki Prefecture. She said the release was a historic first step for the African country.
Mohamed added that she hopes the event will encourage young Kenyans to dream of developing satellites.
In 2015, JAXA signed a pact with the U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs to provide developing countries with opportunities to deploy microsatellites from the Kibo module. Kenya’s 1KUNS-PF was selected as the first to be released under the pact.