Nigeria launches two new satellites into space

Satellite in space: Nigeria has launched two new such satellites in Russia.

Determined to firm up its drive towards technological advancement, especially in relation to Information Communications Technology (ICT), Nigeria has launched two observation satellites into the orbit to be used for disaster management, with President Goodluck Jonathan describing the move as another milestone in his country’s effort to solve national problems through space technology.

The satellites, put into orbit at Yashny in Russia, were constructed and launched at accost of the satellites cost Nigeria $ 113.2 million (N17.42 billion).

Both satellites were built at Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) in Guildford, UK, under contract with the Nigerian National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA).

NigeriaSat-X was constructed through an SSTL training and development programme at SSTL in Guildford. In total, 26 Nigerian engineers participated in the project, working on the satellite for 18 months throughout the design and test phases. The NigeriaSat-X offers 22 m multi-spectral GSD across a 600 km swath width.

Dr. S. O. Mohammed, the head of NASRDA, commented: “NigeriaSat-2 will significantly boost African capabilities for remote sensing applications, specifically for natural resource management. The highly agile NigeriaSat-2 is based on the latest SSTL 300 platform and will deliver multiple viewing modes to a maximum 2.5 m panchromatic (black and white) ground sample distance (GSD) and 5 m multispectral (colour) GSD across a 20 km swath width.

A second 32 m GSD, 300 km swath width multispectral imager will provide data continuity with Nigeria’s previous SSTL-built satellite, NigeriaSat-1, launched in 2003 and still operational.

The satellite is a medium resolution multi-spectral low orbiting sun synchronous satellite. It is part of the world-wide Disaster Monitoring Constellation System. Images of the country obtained from the satellite are beamed back to the control station for use by the government.

NigeriaSat-2’s very high resolution imagery gives the ability to pinpoint individual buildings, roads or fields of interest from space and will be used to provide data for urban planning, important to Nigeria’s rapidly-expanding cities. NASRDA plans to use the satellite to map the entire country in detail every four months as well as to enhance food security for Nigeria, Africa’s most populated country, through monthly crop monitoring.

NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X will add new, higher resolution imaging capability to the Disaster Monitoring Constellation, a fleet of separately owned small satellites, coordinated by DMC International Imaging Ltd (DMCii) for daily global monitoring.

Built for a 7 year operational lifetime, NigeriaSat-2’s very high resolution imagery will see it acquiring and downlinking 20 times more data per day than its NigeriaSat-1 predecessor, providing large quantities of data for sale on the commercial market. It can be used for demography such as mapping and planning of population surveys, census enumeration areas, as well as mapping, planning and monitoring of rural and urban growth and to also give advance warnings of natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and storms.

Furthermore, NigeriaSat-2 can be used to avoid or manage any occurrence of man-made disasters like oil pollution, desertification, erosion, forest fire, and deforestation. In agriculture, it is used for mapping, land use planning, management of sustainable grazing, forest logging, planning afforestation programmes, crop inventory and yield forecast.

Nigeria had in the quest for technological relevance and empowerment embarked on the task of procuring its own satellites that has so far led to the launch of two.  Apart from NigeriaSat 1, a second satellite, a communications satellite called Nigeria Communications Satellite NIGCOMSAT, was also launched in May 2007 in China, but Nigeria lost the second satellite in orbit due to a fault with the solar panel caused by a cut to the fuel supply link of the panel resulting in a solar flare.

The replaced satellite tagged NIGCOMSAT R is said to be 75 per cent completed and expected to be launched at the end of the year.

The NigComSat1 experiment was set in motion during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. It was conceived as a follow up to the nation’s first satellite in orbit, Nigeria Satellite NigerSat1. The NigComSat project was seen as an answer to the country’s quest for technological advancement and a window through which Nigeria hoped to stamp its feet on the consciousness of the global community as a nation to be reckoned with in ICT. The Nigeria Satellite 1, which was facilitated by NARSDA, paved the way for NigComSat1 valued at about $250 million.

The contract, which was signed in December 2004 between NARSDA and the Great Wall Industry Corporation of China, led to the Chinese company designing, developing, manufacturing and launching the satellite into orbit in May, 2007. China was awarded the deal after it outbid 21 international rivals, including, Britain and the United States to secure the multi-million dollar deal.

The contract package included the cost of the satellite, construction, insurance, value added tax (VAT) as well as the price for building one ground control station in Abuja and a backup control station in Kashi, China.

The satellite has four gateways said to be located in South Africa, China, Italy and Northern Nigeria. The satellite is supposed to have a lifespan of 15 years and is to be monitored and tracked by a ground station built in Abuja while the Chinese firm, Great Wall Industry Corporation, through its ground station in Kashgar, in North-west China is to monitor it.

The satellite, a hybrid communications facility, has a fuel payload that is meant to maintain it in orbit for a maximum of 15 years. It featured two L-Band transponders, eight Ka Band transponders, four C-Band transponders and 14 KU-Band transponders.

The new replacement satellite, NIGCOMSAT-1R, is said to have similar features with the lost satellite but with few modifications. It is a geostationary satellite with C, Ku, Ka and L bands. The Chinese are said to be enhancing, testing and retesting the new satellite to forestall the possibility of another mishap, but only time will tell if they have succeeded or not.

Nigeria’s investment in satellites is expected to yield several benefits. Those who support the nation’s investments in satellite technology have said it will enable Internet access to even the remotest rural villages, a major quest of stakeholders in recent times. It is also expected to enhance government’s economic reforms, particularly in the areas of e-learning, e-commerce, tele-medicine, tele-education and rural telephony.

The project is also expected to help Nigeria save about $ 450 million annually spent on the importation of bandwidth from Europe and America to facilitate Internet access, telephony and broadcasting according to the Minister of Science and Technology, Ita Ewa.

Satellite technology is expected to help play key roles in e-commerce by improving government efficiency and promoting the development of the digital economy in Nigeria and Africa. It is expected to bring down the cost of GSM and Internet services in the country as a result of the availability of cheaper satellite bandwidth and help Nigeria break free from its over-reliance on oil trade and transform itself into a knowledge-based economy. Indeed, Ewa recently reiterated that satellite technology would advance Nigeria’s global in readiness rating which is currently pegged at 127th position in the world.

Imagery is captured for specific areas and application needs. NigeriaSat-2 can provide data to meet data requirements for the following:

  • Urban mapping (2.5m panchromatic)
  • Oil spills: detection, extent and location (2.5m or 5m)
  • Land use change in rural/urban areas (5m)
  • Hydrology (irrigation, fadama projects)
  • Crop production and forest monitoring
  • Security monitoring (2.5m panchromatic)
  • Structure mapping and terrain analysis
  • Road/railway development and maintenance
  • Pipeline monitoring
  • Detection of such things as illegal mining, fire, etc


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