The Italian Space Center in Kenya

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The Luigi Broglio space center in Malindi, Kenya, is an Italian space center outside the national territory, owned by the Sapienza University of Rome and managed by the Italian Space Agency. 

Due to its equatorial location on the Indian Ocean coast, it’s an ideal site for launch activities and ground-based satellite monitoring. The center (Longitude 40.19 degrees east – Latitude 2.99 degrees south) is divided into two sections: the sea segment, which houses the ocean-based launch platform, and the land portion, which houses the data reception center. 

Broglio-Space-Center-san-marco-platform
San Marco launch platform, with a Scout launch vehicle on the launch pad. The pad was a former oil platform

The BSC is no longer utilized as a launch site, even though the ground station is still in operation for satellite communications and tracking with different agencies ( (NASA, ESA, and China National Space Administration). In all, only 23 satellite launches were carried out by the center, from 1966 to 1988. 

The space center was conceived and managed by Professor Luigi Broglio, considered a father of Italian aerospace engineering, and has been active since 1966 when it was inaugurated under the name of Progetto San Marco. The facility, which is around 3.5 hectares in size and located on the Indian Ocean coast about 32 kilometers from Malindi, may be reached via Kenya’s coastline region. 

Professor Luigi Broglio
Luigi Broglio showing the San Marco launch pad, May 5, 1981

The Italian launch team, which had been prepared by NASA, was to launch the first rocket from Wallops Island under NASA supervision on December 15, 1964. The goal of the San Marco project was to launch research satellites from a transportable rigid platform near the equator using Scout launch vehicles. The solid-propellant Scout rocket was used to launch low-payload-weight payloads into orbit.

Broglio-Space-Center

The last launch, on March 25th, 1988, was the Scout carrier carrying the San Marco D/L satellite. Since then, the platform has been idle, with just routine maintenance performed on it. 

The land section consists of three ground-based stations (antenna systems) for in-orbit monitoring, as well as a small marina for the docking of the vessels connecting with the platforms. 

San Marco platform was a former oil platform, located to the north of Cape Ras Ngomeni. The Santa Rita platform, a second former oil station southeast of the San Marco platform, controlled launches from the platform, while a smaller Santa Rita II housed the facility’s radar. 

Broglio-Space-Center-san-marco-platform-launch

Source: 1, 2

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