By Prince Osuagwu & Laide Akinboade
Nigeria once again went up into space, yesterday, at exactly 5.40pm as NigComSat -1R, Nigeria’s replacement communications satellite, was successfully launched into orbit.
NIGCOMSAT-1R is the replacement for NigComSat-1, which was de-orbited due to malfunction of Solar Array Deployment Assembly, SADA, on November 10, 2008.
Meanwhile, an excited President Goodluck Jonathan has described the launch as another great step forward for the country towards the development of a modern, knowledge-driven society.
In his congratulatory message to the nation for a successful communications satellite launch, Jonathan said Nigeria had kept up with the time-frame of activities contained in the country’s 25-year National Space Development Road-map.
The satellite was built and hoisted by China Great Walls Industry Corporation, which in collaboration with their insurance companies, committed to build a replacement satellite for Nigeria at no additional cost.
The launch of the new satellite was on a Long March 3B, LM-3B, launch vehicle from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre located in South West China, as the spacecraft entered the predefined orbit of perigee being 200 km, apogee 41991 km and inclination 24.8.
NigComSat-1R spacecraft is built on Dong Fang Hong 4, DFH-4, satellite bus developed by China Academy of Space Technology, CAST, and launched by LM-3B launch vehicle developed by China Academy of Launch Vehicle, CALT.
While China Satellite Launch Tracking and Control General, CLTC, will be providing tracking, control and ground segment support for the programme, there are about two ground stations located in Abuja Nigeria, and Kashi, China.
NigComSat-1R is the 8th satellite built on the DFH-4 bus for in-orbit delivery and the NigComSat-1R launch is the 18th flight of LM-3B launch vehicle and the 154th flight in the series of the Long March launchers.
The project was carried out in conjunction with over 50 Nigcomsat engineers who have spent the last 31 months in China. The satellite has a over 15 years life-span and was designed to meet the needs of telecommunications, maritime, defense, broadcast media in Africa and parts of Europe and Asia. It has 28 active transponders, and quad band of Ku, ka, C-Band and L-band.
Elated Managing Director of Nigcomsat Limited, Engr. Timasaniyu Ahmed-Rufai, said: “This is mission fulfilled.”
Mrs. Omobola Johnson, Minister of Communications and Technology; her Science and Technology counterpart, Prof. Okon Bassey; Senator Gilbert Nnaji, Chairman, Senate Committee on Communication; House members, Nigcomsat-1R project Director and Executive Director, Marketing, Abimbola Alale and Chief Executive of LASACO Insurance Plc, Mr. Sola Ladipo-Ajayi, all witnessed the launch.
President Jonathan agreed that the new satellite, paid for by the insurance policy on the de-orbited NigComSat-1, will have a positive impact on national development in various sectors such as communications, internet services, health, agriculture, environmental protection and national security.
He said: “The new satellite will enhance our communications system as well as facilitate cheaper access to the internet with a view to bridging the existing digital divide between our urban and predominantly rural communities and thereby bringing government nearer to the grass roots.
“I send my sincere congratulations to you all for another great stride in our transformation efforts.”
NigComSat-1R, the President added, will also help in the development of indigenous competence in the management of satellites and related technologies in Nigeria.
He said the new satellite will substantially reduce the annual expenditure of over $1 billion arising from the use of foreign bandwidth for GSM communications, cable television, e-commerce and e-government by both public and private users in the country.
Jonathan urged investment in the new venture, saying “dear country men and women, investment in these high technology resources are part of our overall national strategy of developing an integrated, critical national infrastructure capable of fast-tracking the transformation of our national economy, generating gainful employment for our youths and creating wealth for our dear country.
“Our primary goal remains the accelerated improvement in the overall welfare or our country and people.”