One of Nigeria’s satellites is on its last legs. Here’s why it’s worrying.

This article was initially revealed at The Conversation. The publication contributed the article to Space.com’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Samuel Oyewole, Lecturer, Political Science, Federal University, Oye Ekiti

Nigeria has sponsored or co-sponsored six satellites, of which solely two are at present operational. One of them is functioning even though it has passed its expiry date, in response to the director normal of the National Space Research and Development Agency. The Conversation’s West Africa regional editor, Adejuwon Soyinka, asks space policy researcher Samuel Oyewole to clarify what this implies for the nation.

What does it imply for a satellite tv for pc to expire of gasoline or expire?

A satellite tv for pc will be mentioned to have expired by design or operation. Like each different machine, satellites are designed with a projected expiry date or calculated life expectancy. Beyond this era the operational survival is not assured by the producer. The means to maintain functioning past the set date is pushed by a mix of components. These embrace the standard of its design, improvement and upkeep in addition to a good host setting. A satellite tv for pc can survive so long as it is supported by its {hardware} and software program, management system and internet hosting orbit.

Operationally, a satellite tv for pc expires when any of its vital parts suffers sufficient harm or is degraded to the purpose of inflicting system or main sub-system failure.

A satellite tv for pc is made up of totally different parts. These embrace a protecting field, onboard laptop for receiving, processing and transmitting alerts, in addition to solar array panels, batteries and gasoline for vitality. Any downside with any of these can translate to the operational finish of a satellite tv for pc.

Related: Orbit Fab demonstrates satellite refueling technology on space station

Unlike automobiles or plane, satellites do not really want gasoline for his or her every day orbital operation. They principally rely on solar-powered batteries. However, the gasoline is related in supporting satellites to take care of orbital trajectory and conduct maneuvers when required. Hence, when a satellite tv for pc runs out of energy it is normally switched off to keep away from collision.

Beyond these, an accident or an assault can finish the operational life expectancy of a satellite tv for pc. Space is a really harsh setting, which is changing into more and more congested.

For instance, a satellite tv for pc will be broken or destroyed by:

  • harsh space climate, together with radiation and solar flare;
  • collision with one other satellite tv for pc and space particles, comparable to pure meteoroids (rocks and metallic objects) and human-made junk in orbit; and
  • assaults from anti-satellite weapons, together with missiles, weaponized satellites, lasers and hacking.

This means it’s vital that satellites are designed to the best engineering high quality.

What’s the standing of the satellite tv for pc?

Nigeria at present has a communication satellite tv for pc, NigComSat 1R, and an Earth remark satellite tv for pc, NigeriaSat 2, in operation.

The communication satellite tv for pc was designed to last for 15 years (2011-2026) in orbit. The Earth remark satellite tv for pc is surviving past the projected life expectancy of seven years (2011-2018). This is a testomony to the standard of its engineering, due to its producer, the UK-based Surrey Satellite Technology Limited. A positive host setting would even be an element.

The director-general of the National Space Research and Development Agency mentioned just lately that the satellite tv for pc was surviving by grace. It’s doable he was referring to the operation endurance of NigeriaSat 2.

Nevertheless, some of the vital parts of the satellite tv for pc might not endure for much longer. This would imply it could cease working.

What are the implications if it stops working?

If NigeriaSat 2 goes down with out alternative, it would have an effect on Nigeria’s capability to entry space assist for improvement and safety.

For instance, the satellite tv for pc supplies info on safety, agriculture and transportation. Aside from satellite-generated information, the Nigerian authorities has restricted capability to find out issues like agricultural and building actions throughout the nation in nearly actual time.

In addition, info from satellites is important for catastrophe administration — it allows early warnings to be issued — and national safety coverage.

By having its personal satellite tv for pc, Nigeria would not must rely on primary satellite tv for pc information from different nations.

Without this satellite tv for pc — or a alternative — Nigeria can be compelled to rely on its archive or overseas authorities and personal firms to provide the related information. This is not optimum. Firstly, info from the archives can be outdated. Secondly, relying on overseas authorities or info from non-public firms carries dangers.

What will be executed to handle the loss of the satellite tv for pc?

The loss of any satellite tv for pc is inevitable. So well timed funding in a alternative is vital. The authorities has began shifting on this path. The approved 2021 budget has restricted provision for manufacturing and launching NigeriaSat 3 and NigeriaSat 1. It additionally consists of plans for coaching 60 engineers, amongst different issues. But this could have been executed a lot earlier.

What’s your evaluation of Nigeria’s funding in satellite tv for pc analysis and improvement?

Nigeria has made enormous investments on this space. More than $1 billion has been put aside for this function over the last 20 years. This included about $450 million spent on two communication satellites and 4 Earth observatory or analysis satellites.

But funding nonetheless falls quick of what is required. For instance, the obtainable satellites aren’t sufficient to make sure a national constellation that may present satisfactory and dependable protection for communication or Earth observatory providers.

More importantly, Nigeria hasn’t invested in satellite tv for pc manufacturing functionality. It has skilled many engineers. But it lacks the required infrastructure to assist constructing satellites. Existing satellites have been designed and constructed within the UK, China and Japan.

Nigeria has acquired appreciable profit from its satellites, which have produced hundreds of related photographs for improvement and safety. And it has developed facilities throughout the nation to course of and convert satellite tv for pc information to what is simply consumable. These have been used to assist agriculture, catastrophe administration, training and army campaigns.

The communication satellite tv for pc has additionally been helpful in supporting civil, business and army calls for. With the Earth remark satellite tv for pc, it has contributed to the command and management by way of computer systems, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance of the Nigerian army.

Some federal ministries and companies, in addition to authorities and private-owned firms, have equally benefited from their partnership with the Nigerian Communication Satellite Limited.

But there are nonetheless considerations that Nigeria’s space capabilities are underutilized. For instance, information that is obtainable from the Nigerian Earth remark satellites is not used on the town planning in most state and native governments.

An identical concern is evident within the administration of forest reserves. These have grow to be sanctuaries for criminals.

Benefits from funding in satellite tv for pc R&D are intently linked to the capability of public establishments and the non-public sector to entry, undertake and use space applied sciences to advance improvement and safety within the nation.

This article is republished from The Conversation beneath a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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