Nigeria’s Space Technology and its Budding Trajectory

Nigeria’s Space Technology and its Budding Trajectory

Author ~ Funmi Akindejoye

A global technology revolution began with the launch of Syncom 2, the world’s first geosynchronous communications satellite, on July 26, 1963. Through the application of Syncom2, a space technology, the historic two-minute phone conversation between the then American President, John F. Kennedy, and Nigerian Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, was recorded. Space technology is technology developed by space science or the aerospace industry for use in space flight, satellite, or space exploration. It plays a vital role in global security, communication, industrialisation and sustained socio-economic development.

On September 26, 2003, Nigeria’s first satellite was launched from Russian Plesetsk spaceport. The satellite, NigeriaSat-1, was a low earth orbit micro satellite for resource mapping, disaster management, environmental monitoring and sustainable development and it lasted till 2012 (four years longer than expected). Subsequently, Nigeria witnessed the launch of her communication satellite, also Africa’s first communication satellite – NigcomSat-1, in May 2007. The satellite failed in November 2008 after running out of power and disappearing from orbit. However, a replacement satellite – NigcomSat-1R was launched in December 2011, it currently provides internet and telecommunications services across the country.

Nigeria’s third and fourth satellites, NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X, were launched into the orbit from Russia on August 17, 2011; the former at the time of its launch produced the highest resolution images of any UK-built satellite, while the latter was put together by a trained team of 26 Nigerian engineers. Both earth observational satellites have been reported to assist in close monitoring of the oil-rich Niger Delta, where there has been massive vandaliSation of crude oil exploration facilities, crude oil theft and pollution from oil spills. They have also helped in tracking crops and weather around the country. In 2011, the space agency used its satellites to monitor elections, providing crucial information about voters who may otherwise have been overlooked by poll workers. During the run-up to 2011 presidential election, the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) provided up-to-date satellite-generated maps to help electoral officials detect small villages and itinerant groups of people who were not represented on the static paper maps. The Centre for Satellite Technology Development (CSTD), one of the centres in the National Space Research and Development Agency, has been attributed to play a major role in the development of all satellites that have been built for Nigeria.

According to Dr Spencer Onuh, the CSTD Director, Nigeria is the only member country in Africa that has made contributions to African resource management in terms of satelliteS and the only country in Africa that has membership of the Disaster Monitoring Constellation for International Imaging (DMCii).

Has Nigeria Reaped the Benefits of Space Technology?

Despite these achievements, Nigeria is yet to reap the anticipated benefits of space technology.    There are numerous benefits to be derived from a progressively comprehended and well managed space programme of any nation. Space programming:

Enhances economic development

Space technology and its spin-offs are assets that can be used to develop new products and processes, and benefit economic growth in terms of establishment of local industries for manufacturing of components and parts, spin-offs in the external economy, employment generation and improvement of educational systems. These usually contribute to the Gross Domestic Product of every nation.

Supports urban planning

The common goal of urban planning is to promote development investment in urban areas across a region through modern inclusive planning practices and strategies. It is worthy of note that the Nigerian satellite system is capable of providing social economic benefits to the country by improving urban planning, as uncontrolled urban growth has generated serious environmental problems, and increased social segmentation and poverty. The earth observational satellites (NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X) has been designed to identify buildings, roads or fields of interest from space, and present such data which can then be used for resourceful urban planning. Proper application of such data increases the capacity of the authorities to provide services such as transportation, energy, education, health care and security.

Improves communication

Also, Information Communication Technology (ICT) has been considered as part of the comprehensive benefits of communication satellite. It serves as the driving force behind most development activities, particularly in capturing, processing, storing, managing, and sharing geospatial dataset. The NigeriaSat-2 has great potential for broad spectrum of data acquisition for the National Geospatial Data Infrastructure (NGDI), which has a vision to create and provide the geospatial knowledge required to understand, protect, and promote Nigeria’s national and global interests.

The NGDI will assist in collaborative decision making across multiple sectors of our economy and create the foundation for a GI-based (geospatial information) economy that will help improve the quality of life of Nigerians and alleviate poverty. Furthermore, NigeriaSat-2, with the linkage to other satellites in the DMC (Disaster monitoring constellation), through internet facility enables data sharing. Thus, it offers great potential for management and monitoring of disasters such as oil spillage and environmental degradation.

Supports sustainable agriculture

With the earth observational satellites, Nigeria has the capacity to improve her agricultural systems and food distribution. This can be achieved by employing NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X to monitor large scale food production, arable lands and intact resources, where farmers can now use precise farming solutions such as Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and Geographic Information System (GIS). These new technology advancements allow for precise farming and planting, and provides growers with the ability to double while using fewer inputs.

Science and technology has been identified as crucial to the national and socio-economic growth of any nation because of its multi-faceted impact. Therefore, it becomes essential for the federal government to give significant priority to Nigeria’s space technology. According to the Nigeria Space Road Map-2005, Nigeria aims to launch a Nigerian-made satellite by 2018 from a launch site in Nigeria, and on a launch vehicle manufactured in Nigeria by 2025.

The first step towards achieving these goals is to support capacity building in space science and technology, and establish aerospace engineering departments in degree awarding institutions. To support Nigeria’s space technology, government should encourage significant research activities in space and satellite-related issues by creating an endowment fund for research. In addition, a major challenge confronting the CSTD is the lack of Design Centre and Assembly Integration and Testing Centre (DC/AITC) in NARSDA. Establishing this centre is vital in fulfilling the mandate of producing a made-in-Nigeria satellite by 2018 and for the practical application of the technical skill and knowledge of trained engineers (on whom the government spent huge amount of money for their training and human development). In the words of Prof. Samuel Ibiyemi, former Head, Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Ilorin: “The Federal Government is trying, but more is still required for the development of space science and technology in the country”.

 

Reference
  1. Akinyede J. O. and Agbaje G. I. Nigeria’s satellite data utilisation for sustainable development. National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) http://www.isprs.org/ proceedings/XXXVI/part7/PDF/195.pdf
  2. Connor Adams Sheets (2013, September). Nigeria’s Space Program: A Rare Glimpse Inside The West African Nation’s Satellite Operation. International Business Times.
  3. Emmanuel Elebeke (2017, September 13). Nigeria: Space Business Should Attract More Government Attention – Onuh. Vanguard http://allafrica.com/stories/201709130786.html
  4. Nicole K. Yoder (2017). Benefits of Agriculture Global Positioning System Technology
    University of Illinois – Springfield. Coursepaper. https://www.coursepaper.com/benefits-of-agriculture-global-positioning-system-technology/
  5. NigComSat-1 (2016, October 30). Wikipedia, Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ NigComSat-1
  6. Olufemi A. Agboola (2011). Space system and engineering in Africa: Nigeria as a case study. http://www.unoosa.org/documents/pdf/psa/bsti/ALC2010/10_NIGERIA-ALC-2011-ESS-V1_.pdf
  7. Spencer Onuh (2014). The Problem with Nigeria’s Satellite, Space Technology. My Engineers http://myengineers.blogspot.com.ng/2014/07/the-problem-with-nigerias-satellite.html
  8. Tomi Oladipo (2013, March), Nigeria’s space race. BBC http://www.bbc.com/news/world-21954395.
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