August 18, 2011

Nigeria Launches Two New Satellites

In an attempt to observe their nation from outer space, recently Nigeria launched two satellites with the help of a Russian Dnepr rocket.

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan praised the launch, calling the event, "Another milestone in our nation's effort to solve national problems through space technology," according to the BBC.

The satellites, named NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X, were built in the UK at Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), with the aid of 26 Nigerian engineers who aided in the assembly of the spacecraft. They are monitored at both Guildford, UK and in Abuja, Nigeria. They were built under contract with the Nigerian National Space Research and Development Agency.

According to Ita Ewa, Nigeria's Minister of Science and Technology, the new satellites are meant to replace the NigeriaSat-1, launched in 2003. The NigeriaSat-1 was meant to only last five years, but is still working capably.

Ewa also said the satellites will provide high resolution images of Nigeria once every four months.

Nigerian officials, according to the Associated Press (AP), hope to use the satellites to monitor disaster prone areas of their country that stretch into Africa's Sahel, a belt of land on the Sahara Desert's southern fringe that experiences extreme drought in the dry season and devastating rainfall in the wet season. Floods last year displaced about 500,000 people nationwide, mostly in the Sahel region.

Nigerian authorities also told the AP that the imaging satellite can detect anything wider than 8.2 feet. This indicates that the satellites may be used for more than their intended purposes, such as military operations.

Nigeria hasn't always had great success in launching satellites. They launched their first communication satellite, the NIGCOMSAT-1, in May 2007. It was built by a Chinese team and launched at a Chinese launchpad. The satellite was to provide phone, broadband internet and broadcasting services to Africa's most populous nation but was lost just over a year later.


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