Nigeria returns to space with Nigcomsat-1R

RufaiAT exactly 5.40 p.m. yesterday, Nigeria’s replacement communications satellite NigComSat 1R was launched into space.

The satellite, a baby of Nigeria Communication Satellite (NIGCOMSAT) Limited, was launched on a Long March 3B (LM-3B) vehicle from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in South West China.

The spacecraft entered the predefined orbit of perigee being 200 kilometres, apogee 41,991 kilometres and inclination 24.8.

NigComSat-1R is the fourth in-orbit delivery contract signed by China Space with its international customers.

The launch was conducted according to the NigComSat-1R contract signed by NIGCOMSAT and China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC), a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).

NigComSat-1R is a replacement for the Nigeria Communications Satellite 1 (NigComSat-1) that failed in orbit.

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). China Satellite Launch Tracking and Control General (CLTC) is providing tracking, control and ground segment support for the programme.

It is the eighthth satellite built on the DFH-4 bus for in-orbit delivery. 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 executed in conjunction with over 50 NigComSat engineers, who spent 31 months in China. The satellite with service lifespan of over 15 years was designed to meet the needs of telecommunications, maritime, defence, broadcast media in Africa, particularly Nigeria, parts of Europe and Asia. It has 28 active transponders, and quad band of Ku, Ka, C-Band and L-band.

Two ground stations located in Abuja, Nigeria and Kashi, China owned by NigComSat, participated in the launch.

In a statement, NIGCOMSAT Director of Communications, Mr. Sonny Aragba-Akpore from China yesterday, quoted the company’s Managing Director, Mr. Timasaniyu Ahmed-Rufai as saying: “This is mission fulfilled.”

According to him, top government officials, including Communications Technology, Minister, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, her Science and Technology counterpart, Prof. Okon Ewa Bassey, Chairman, Senate Committee on Communication, Gilbert Nnaji, members of the House of Representatives, NigComSat 1R Project Director and Executive Director, Marketing, Abimbola Alale and Chief Executive of LASACO Insurance Plc, Mr. Sola Ladipo-Ajayi witnessed the event.

NigComSat-1R, covering Central, Western and Southern Africa, Central and Eastern part of Europe, and some areas of Mid-Asia, will be mainly used for communications, broadcasting, tele-education, broad-band multimedia service, navigation service, among others.

The satellite is expected to improve relevant infrastructure in Nigeria and benefit the people within its coverage. It will also promote the economic and technological development of Nigeria’s neighbours in sub-Sahara Africa.

NigComSat-1 was de-orbited due to the malfunction of Solar Array Deployment Assembly (SADA) on November 10, 2008. China Space committed itself to build a replacement satellite for Nigeria at no additional cost. China Space accepted responsibility for the failure for both the customer and itself, based on thorough investigation of the incident.

The Nigerian Academy of Science has congratulated Nigeria on the development.

President of the Academy, Prof. Oye Ibidapo-Obe, described the development as cheering news for the country.

He told The Guardian:  “We are now players at global science, engineering and technology innovation forefront. For the ICT sector, it will make the services more effective (with the availability of more robust bandwidth), efficient – as a result of better resolution — and cheaper market forces and resulting competition.

“For the 50 Nigerian engineers, it is the right step in the right direction and we need to put in place strategies to ensure that we don’t lose them to ‘brain drain.’ I will advise that the trained engineers should also share residency in the universities on adjunct positions.”

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