As the country prepares to launch Africa’s first Nano-satellite into orbit, the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), says it has established a blueprint that will see Nigeria launch its own made satellite into orbit from ‘Nigerian soil’.
According to a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the Director-General of NASRDA, Prof. Seidu Mohammed, while speaking in New York disclosed that the country has a roadmap that will see it launch a Nigerian-built satellite from Nigeria by the year 2030.
Reeling out the plan, Prof. Mohammed enthused: “There is a Roadmap for Development of Space Science and Technology ending in 2030. We hope by 2030, facilities for launch would have been provided in Nigeria so that by that year, we would have launched satellite from Nigeria into space. We would be able to complete our Assembling, Integration, Testing and Design before 2018, and by 2022, most of these efforts would begin to crystallize. The large-scale commercialization of space equipment would be possible in our country, and by 2030, we believe that there would be a launching facility from our country.”
He applauded the efforts of the current Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, noting that the plan will be actualized with such efforts.
According to him, since inception in 2001, NASRDA has launched five satellites comprising of three earth observation satellites and two communication satellites.
The first satellite, NigeriaSat-I, an international disaster monitoring constellation satellite, built by a UK-based satellite technology company, Surrey Space Technology Limited, was launched in 2003.
NigComSat-I, the second Nigerian satellite was ordered and built in China in 2004; it was Africa’s first Communication Satellite, launched on 13 May 2007.
NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X, which, respectively, were the third and fourth built by Surrey Space Technology Limited., were launched in 17 August 2011. The fifth, NigComSat-1R was launched by China on 19 December 2011 as a replacement satellite for the NigComSat-I, which malfunctioned in space.
However in a twist, NASRDA’s planned launch of a nano-satellite this month has come under public ridicule as some Nigerians have tagged it as a waste of resources.
On a social media platform, notable Nigerians expressed worry that the continuous launch of satellites in foreign countries by Nigeria, without a substantiated benefit from past launches does not augur well with the country’s economy.
Prof. Mohammed had explained that the satellite which was built by Nigerian scientists and engineers in Kyushu University, Japan, will study environmental parameters and acquire data for environmental use.
“All these are parts of efforts to sustain technology already transferred to Nigerian scientists and engineers. In addition to the feat achieved by the Nigerian engineers, there is the need to encourage the youth to take career in space science and technology.”
Nano-satellites are artificial satellites with a wet mass between 1 and 10 kg.
One rationale for miniaturizing satellites is to reduce the cost. This is because heavier satellites require larger rockets with greater thrust that also has greater cost to finance. In contrast, smaller and lighter satellites require smaller and cheaper launch vehicles and can sometimes be launched in multiples. They can also be launched on the back of larger launch vehicles. Miniaturized satellites allow for cheaper designs as well as ease of mass production.
Another major reason for developing small satellites is the opportunity to enable missions that a larger satellite could not accomplish, such as: Constellations for low data rate communications; Using formations to gather data from multiple points; In-orbit inspection of larger satellites and University-related research.
“It’s of National Importance now that we begin to take stock of the economic value of Nigeria’s Space Assets given the quantum of resources invested in these projects. To what extent have we maximized the potentials of Nigcomsat and by what significant measure does it contribute to the technology sub-index? We need to take stock of these things as a nation and until then, I will remain less enthusiastic.” Mark Michael, a social commentator rhetorically asked.
According to Adebayo Banjo, the country should first embark on making basic things that are needed in the country, like pencil and bullets which other countries have perfected before advancing to satellite manufacturing.
“In 1998, I represented Nigeria at a space technology conference in miami, where manufacturers displayed all the various components required to build a micro satellite, usually with one or two simple functions. Since then secondary and university students have been building micro satellites. Never have I heard of a government behind this kind of student/university project and hoping to impress,” he surmised.
He further queried the benefit of the previously launched satellites: “Can anyone confirm who is using the communication satellites we have paid millions for and launched. Please go and investigate, if anyone is using our satellites.”
Echoing that view, Head, Operations at Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbolahan Awonuga questioned the viability of the other satellites. “Please can somebody tell me, what benefits had we derived from it. How many institutions and industries has benefited from the project? Please I need to be informed. Now Nano, why do we loved to deceive ourselves and waste resources? These money let use it to build ICT Villages in Geo-political zones.”
Also a one-time Director, Space Science in the office of the National Security Adviser, Akin Fapohunda noted that the satellite project is a White Elephant project that should have been shut down years ago.
Nigeria’s nano-satellite would be launched alongside Japan, Ghana, Nepal and Bangladesh from the launch base at Miami, Florida, in the US.
According to Mohamed, the latest satellite to be launched is another feat achieved by Nigerian engineers.