Nigeria launches monitoring satellites


Nigeria has successfully launched two satellites into space, which will be used for a variety of tasks, including security, agriculture and disaster monitoring.

NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X were launched on Wednesday from the rocket launch base in Yasny, Russia, the Nigerian government said in a statement. The launch was originally scheduled for July 7. The satellites can be used for forestry, mapping, disaster monitoring, military applications and security, amongst other functions.
“I congratulate our nation for this new chapter in our transformational efforts as we strive for self-reliance,” President Goodluck Jonathan said. “Let me congratulate the resourceful Nigerians who made this history possible.”
“Data from the satellites will help enhance food security in Nigeria through mapping of farmlands, providing advice to farmers on drought, when and how to plant their crops, soil quality and (to) monitor their crops to ensure they have high yields,” Frank Chizea, project manager for the launched satellites, told AFP.
“We can use data collected from the satellites to monitor the activities and movements of criminals, smugglers, militants, oil bunkerers (thieves), movement of goods, arms and equipment within and across our borders,” he said.

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 designed and built by Nigerian engineers and scientists. A total of 26 Nigerian engineers participated in the project, working on the satellite for 18 months throughout the design and test phases, according to Africa Science News.

NigeriaSat-2 will generate high resolution imagery that will be used to map the entire country every four months and enhance food security through monthly crop monitoring, and provide data for urban planning.

Nigeria has for years been pursuing its own satellites and in 2003 launched the still-operational SSTL-built NigeriaSat-1. In May 2007 the US$257 million Nigeria Communications Satellite NIGCOMSAT was launched in China with the aim of providing phone, Internet and broadcast services. However, it later failed in orbit.

A replacement satellite, NIGCOMSAT R, is said to be 75% complete and is expected to be launched at the end of this year. This should help save Nigeria around US$450 million spent every year on purchasing bandwidth from Europe and America, Africa Science News reports Minister of Science and Technology, Ita Ewa, as saying.

According to This Day newspaper, the construction and launch of the satellites cost N17.42 billion (US$112 million).