Nigeria conquers space (2/2)

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Following the success of Nigeriasat 1 in 2003, Nigeria continues its commitment to space activities, mainly telecommunications.

(Continuation of the article published on October 2, 2023)

The benefits and prospects of Nigeriasat 1 are such that NASRDA is continuing its cooperation with the British SSTL in signing, in November 2006 in Abuja, a contract for the supply of two new Nigeriasat Earth observation satellites, with the improvement of ground infrastructure. The contract also provides for the training of 26 engineers called to work on the construction of one of the two satellites (Nigeriasat X) with the help of SSTL specialists.

Nigeriasat 2, Nigeriasat

New generation, Nigeriasat 2 has high resolution capacity. It is therefore equipped with a sensor offering images with details of 2.5 m (in strips panchromatic) at 5 m (in multispectral bands). Using an SSTL-100 platform, with a mass of 286 kg, it also has another 32 m medium resolution sensor (in multispectral bands). The data is collected by a ground receiving station in Abuja. As for the Nigeriasat visible and in the near infrared, which allows images of land and plant cover. It is also the first satellite built by Africans.

The two Nigeriasats must continue monitoring natural disasters (within the Disaster Monitoring Constellation), but also contribute to the management of the country’s resources, food security (by observing crops, water resources, etc.), urban planning (notably the sprawling and uncontrollable megacity Lagos) and, also, to ensure military and security functions . In the latter case, they must in particular help identify the activities of criminals, such as the Boko Haram terrorist movement which is rampant in the northeast, but also oil thieves. Indeed, this question is crucial when we know that insecurity causes Nigeria to lose around 25 million dollars per year…

Launches and successes

On August 17, 2011, a Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr 1 launcher placed the Nigeriasat 2 and Fully operational in March 2012, the satellites were entrusted to NASRDA in July 2012. Nigeriasat 2 can deliver 100 to 400 images per day.

With the success of the first Nigeriasat, the enthusiastic NASRDA decided in 2003-04 to extend its field of action to communications, an area which had aroused interest for several decades.

Nigeria in communications

Having little or no terrestrial cable networks and having a huge, heavily populated territory with ethnic and religious complexity, Nigeria understood the challenge of communication satellites very early on. This is the reason why in 1971 it joined the operating agreements of the Intelsat organization, allowing it to access the satellite network deployed by the United States (from 1964) in exchange for a contribution. . The country then acquired its first reception antennas allowing the use of Intelsat IIIs.

As with Earth observation, Nigeria does not have space technology and is therefore forced to turn to other nations. At the beginning of the 2000s, the context having become favorable and the ambitions now being there, a call for tenders was launched and, out of the 21 competitors, China won the bid in 2004. For China, the The stakes are high because, for the first time, it offers the delivery of a “turnkey” network, from manufacturing to delivery of a satellite (Nigcomsat based on a Chinese DFH), including the construction of ground stations (Abuja in Nigeria, Kashi in China), insurance and training of Nigerian specialists, at a cost that defies the competition. A memorandum of understanding was signed on December 14, 2004 between NASRDA and the Chinese CGWIC. For its part, Nigeria set up an operating company on April 4, 2006 under the name Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NCSL), placed under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Communications and the Digital Economy. The Nigcomsat 1 satellite was launched on May 13, 2007 from Xichang by a Chinese Long March 3B/E rocket, then China’s spearhead to interfere in the international communications satellite market. On July 6, CGWIC officially handed over the satellite to NCSL.

The setbacks of Nigcomsat 1

With a mass of 5,150 kg, Nigcomsat has 28 transponders (4 in C, 8 Ka, 14 Ku and 2 L bands). Planned to operate for around fifteen years, it must ensure coverage of a major part of Africa, as far as southern Europe. But, eighteen months later on November 10, 2008, Nigcomsat 1 broke down, following an anomaly in the solar panels, to the great dismay of the Nigerian and especially Chinese authorities who are staking their reputation against other major space nations, especially since Nigcomsat 1 was the first commercial telecommunications satellite placed in China’s orbit. As Jean-Philippe Rémy mentions in The world of September 25, 2009, some did not hesitate to joke about the quality of Chinese technology and poor Nigeria which “has succeeded in exporting its electricity problems into space”

No matter, a new agreement was signed on March 24, 2009 between the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, NigComSat Ltd. and CGWIC stipulating the delivery into orbit of the Nigcomsat 1R satellite (also a DFH-4 bus) to replace the Nigcomsat 1. For Nigeria, the deal is important because, with the Nigcomsat network, it is about connecting the most further from the country and increase the connectivity of rural areas, thus promoting the development of the national territory, including the young film industry.

On December 19, 2011, China placed the Nigcomsat 1R into orbit, to the great joy of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, affirming that the new satellite “will improve the communications system (And) will enable cheaper access to the Internet with the aim of connecting urban and rural communities.” The humiliation of 2008 was then erased.

Some references

Two studies : on the eoPortal site (whose data comes from the book by Herbert Kramer, “Observation of the Earth and Its Environment”Springer Verlag, 2002), for Nigeriasat 2 and for Nigeriasat

Two articles: “To govern is to provide. How China lost the Nigerian telecommunications satellite in Business AfricaFebruary-March 2009; “Let’s laugh a little with Nigeria in space”in The world, September 25, 2009.

A report : “Eighth report by the international telecommunication union on telecommunication and the peaceful uses of outer space”, ITU, Geneva, 1969,

Philippe Varnoteaux is a doctor in history, specialist in the beginnings of space exploration in France and author of several reference works

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