The Nigerian space program

What is the Nigerian space program? Developed countries that have invested in outer space are now at the forefront of influencing the global economy. Even developing countries such as Brazil, China, and India have achieved enormous leverage through the use of space technology, with appreciable impacts on national development, especially in the areas of communication, food security, and resource management. Nigeria is an active member of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, with participation in Legal and Scientific and Technical Subcommittees. It supports in totality the Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines of the Committee and the IADC Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines.

In recognition of the role and relevance of space science and technology to national development, Nigeria declared its space ambition to the Economic Commission for Africa and Organization of African Unity member countries during an intergovernmental meeting in Addis Ababa in 1976. However, this declaration did not evolve into a space program. Nevertheless, in 1987, the National Council of Ministers’ approved the establishment of a National Centre for Remote Sensing. Within the same year, the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology constituted a National Committee on Space Applications.

This was followed in 1993 by the establishment of the Directorate of Science by the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI). The mandate of the directorate included space science and technology. NASENI later constituted a nine-person committee of experts that produced a draft national space science and technology policy. Based on the draft policy, the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) was established on May 5, 1999, with the clear mandate to “vigorously pursue the attainment of space capabilities as an essential tool for the socio-economic development and the enhancement of the quality of life of Nigerians”.

The Nigerian space program is managed by the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA). The space policy was approved in May 2000. The mandate of the agency as encapsulated in the policy is to vigorously pursue the attainment of space capabilities as an essential tool for the socioeconomic development of the nation and the enhancement of the quality of life for Nigerians.

For a space program to be sustainable in emerging space-faring countries, there is a need to develop and implement a space economic development model. The space economic model adopted in Nigeria is the public-private partnership model that involves the short-, medium-, and long-term plans. Within the short-term plan, the government is responsible for all investments in space technology development. In the medium-term, the government implements the partial commercialization of NASRDA’s products and services developed during the short-term economic development plan. In the long-term plan, the government partners with the private sector to implement the public-private partnership framework for the space program.

After the establishment of research centers of excellence, the federal government of Nigeria in 2006 approved the 25-year strategic roadmap for space research and development in Nigeria. Some of the major benchmarks of the roadmap were as follows: to produce a Nigerian astronaut by 2015; to launch a satellite manufactured in Nigeria by 2018; and to launch a satellite manufactured in Nigeria from a launch site in Nigeria on a launch vehicle made in Nigeria by 2025.

The Nigerian space program: National Space Research and Development Agency Act

Talking about the Nigerian space program, the National Space Research and Development Agency Act (NASRDA Act) was signed into law on August 27, 2010. The act provided the legal framework for the implementation of the space program in Nigeria. Some of the functions of NASRDA as provided for in the act include “developing satellite technology for various applications and operationalizing indigenous space system for providing space services, and being the government agency charged with the responsibility of building and launching satellites”, “being the repository of all satellite data over Nigeria’s territory and, accordingly, all collaborations and consultations in space data-related matters in Nigeria being carried out or undertaken by or with the agency”, “promoting the coordination of space application programs for the purpose of optimizing resources and developing space technologies of direct relevance to national objectives”, “encouraging capacity building in space science technology development and management, thereby strengthening the human resources development required for the implementation of space programs”, and “reviewing the national policy on space, including long-range goals, and developing a strategy for national space issues”.

The National Space Research and Development Agency Act 2010 (NASRDA ACT), applicable to all space activities within Nigeria by both citizens and non‐citizens, established formally the National Space Research and Development Agency, empowering the National Space Council as the regulating and supervisory entity for space activities in Nigeria. By virtue of the Act, the National Space Council authorizes licenses for all space activities in Nigeria. License condition under this Act includes permitting inspection and testing of the licensee’s facilities and equipment. License may also be issued on the condition that the licensee provides information to the Council concerning the nature, conduct, location and results of the licensee’s activities. An advance approval of the Council must be obtained for any intended deviation from orbital parameters and it is obligatory to inform the Council immediately of any unintended deviation.

In the Act, particular emphasis is placed on the mitigation of space debris, a licensee is required to conduct its operations in such a way as to prevent the contamination of outer space or cause any adverse changes in the environment of the Earth, to avoid interference with the activities of others states involved in the peaceful exploration of outer space and, to govern the disposal of the pay load in outer space on the termination of operations.

The Nigerian Space Policy provides for research in the following types of satellite technology: earth observation satellites, communication satellites, meteorological satellites, and navigational satellites. However, the current focus of the space program involves development in Earth observation and communication satellites. Consequently, Nigeria has launched five satellites: NigeriaSat-1, NigeriaSat-2, NigeriaSat-X, NigComSat-1, and NigComSat-1R.

Nigeria launched its first Earth observation satellite, NigeriaSat-1, on September 26, 2003. The spatial resolution of the satellite is thirty-two meters with three spectral bands (green, red, near infrared). The satellite image scene has coverage of six hundred kilometers by six hundred kilometers. This wide area coverage makes the data from the satellite economically viable since a single scene covers an area of three hundred and sixty thousand kilometers square. NigeriaSat-1 is a member of the disaster-monitoring constellation and the international charter: space and major disasters. Although the expected life span of the satellite was five years, it was in orbit for eight and a half years and was subsequently de-orbited in 2012. This is what can be said concerning the Nigerian space program.