NigeriaSat-2 goes into orbit today

TWO of Nigeria’s satellites, NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X, will by 8.00 a.m. today lift up from the launch pad of Russian satellite launch service provider, Dnepr, and begin the rocket speed journey to orbit.

From there, both satellites will beam back images and services to earth. The satellites, according to Surrey Space Technology Limited UK, have successfully completed pre-launch tests and have been integrated with a Dnepr launch vehicle in Russia.

In a statement issued in London and obtained by The Guardian, Surrey, which manufactured the satellites, noted:  “NigeriaSat-2, one of the most advanced Earth observation small satellites ever to be launched, will lift off from Yasny in southern Russia on 17 August, together with NigeriaSat-X, which was built under a training and development programme. “Designed and assembled at SSTL in Guildford, the satellites will provide the Nigerian National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) and the Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC) with very high resolution imaging capability. The highly agile NigeriaSat-2 is based on the latest SSTL 300 platform and will deliver multiple viewing modes to a maximum 2.5m panchromatic (black and white) ground sample distance (GSD) and 5.0m multi-spectral (colour) GSD across a 20km swath width.

“A second 32m GSD, 300km swath width multi-spectral imager will provide data continuity with Nigeria’s previous SSTL-built satellite, NigeriaSat-1, launched in 2003 and still operational.” NARSDA officials told The Guardian yesterday that the ground receiving centre in Abuja would be switched on this morning immediately the satellite is launched.  Director of the Centre for Space Technology and Development, Mr. Spencer Onuh, is leading other top scientists and officials of the Ministry of Science and Technology to monitor the launch of the satellites from the Abuja ground station.

The manufacturer of the satellite, Surrey Satellite Technology, describes NigeriaSat-2 as the most advanced small satellite ever to be launched, defining new standards in earth observation and avionics. It is to be used primarily for resource management and mapping of the Nigerian territory. Experts agree that space science and technology application is applicable to all facets of human life including health, security and defence, agriculture, environment, information-communication among others. This is why proponents of Nigeria’s venture into space insist that a step in the development of space science and technology is indeed a giant stride towards improving the socio-economic life of Nigeria.Though the NASRDA said that it raked in a total of £175,000 from the sale of images obtained from the NigeriaSat-1, which was successfully launched into orbit on September, 27, 2003, experts are in doubt about the exact amount realised from the project, calling on government to institute a probe to ascertain the exact income made from the sale of image of the satellite which the country spent a fortune producing.

A space expert, Tunde Ayoola, said: “President Goodluck Jonathan needs to urgently constitute a panel to oversee the sale of images from the two satellites being launched tomorrow (today). Nigeria cannot continue to budget heavily for projects of this nature without tracking its income and expenditures.” The Director-General of NASRDA, Mr. Seidu Mohammed, stressed that Nigeria should be in space to solve some of its socio-economic problems.

He said: “We are once more on the path to greasing the wheels of our success story again, as the stage is now set for the launch of our third and fourth satellites namely NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X. The two spacecrafts and their launch vehicles have been adequately insured in line with the global practice, and all is set for the launch of these two spacecrafts. NigeriaSat- 2 is a high resolution satellite with a 32mm panchromatic view. Sat- 2 is meant to be a continuation of Sat 1. So we still have that kind of medium resolution on Sat -2. In addition to that, it is also a higher resolution image.

“To us, we consider it as the first Africa resolution window that enables us to see at 2.5m resolution and 5.0m in multi-spectre. The implication is that, higher resolution will enable us to look at individual buildings so that urban development can be provoked. We know that most cities in Nigeria are not able to receive letters from post offices because they are not planned and we require images from satellites to be able to do orbiting and be able to plan. That is number one. Two, higher resolution images will enable us to update our maps down to as low as one in 10,000. Today, you must realise that without maps, there is nothing you can do. A nation must be able to plan to enable it achieve the so-called Millennium Development Goals in terms of agriculture, health and education and therefore, providing such a tool becomes strategic as a planning document in achieving those goals.”

He added: “NigeriaSat- X which is codenamed X to depict Nigeria’s first efforts at developing satellites will be launched alongside NigeriaSat-2.” Noting the reservations in some quarters on why Nigeria should go to space, he stressed that Nigeria needed to be in orbit to be able to achieve its vision for the year 2020.

According to Mohammed: “NigeriaSat- X is the ingenuity of our engineers who have undergone training in the design and building of satellites and other spacecrafts.
Part of the objectives of Nigeria’s Space Policy is to develop a pool of Nigerian engineers, scientists and technicians who can design, fabricate, build and manufacture hardware and software for various purposes; develop various skills in various aspects of space science.
Though there are cynicisms in some quarters whether Nigerian engineers built NigeriaSat-X in full and the exact nature of the satellite, Mohammed insisted that Nigerian engineers created NigeriaSat- X.

NARSDA is also aiming to produce two astronauts by the year 2015.