Nigerian Scientists and engineers have, for the past two years, been building and launching experimental rockets – without foreign assistance.
There are six centres under National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), the most notable being the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) Centre for Space Transport and Propulsion (CSTP), located in Epe, Lagos.
The Centre for Space Transport and Propulsion (CSTP), Epe
The CSTP is dedicated to researching and developing space rockets, for military and civilian purposes with stated goal of giving Nigeria the ability to independent launch payload into orbit from Nigerian soil.
Internationally, rocketry is a sensitive subject, because it encompasses “dual use technology”, instruments that can be used, either for peaceful or military purposes. Nigeria’s attempt to aquire ballistic missile know-how in a technology sharing agreement with North Korea ended with threats of sanctions by the West. Nigeria must, therefore, tread softly, to avoid sending the wrong signals about our intentions, which are entirely peaceful.
To this end the military has been pushing for R&D funding for research into rocketry and space using locally based materials and components, including its propulsion.
To this end the Nigerian Army acquired a vast stretch of land from the Lagos State University for the stated purpose of rocket research and field testing. Advances made in this endeavour prompted NASRDA to site each of its Space Research Centres within a university environment to enable Research and Development.
These research facilities are heavily guarded and taking pictures is strictly forbidden. These complexes may well be one of the most tightly guarded properties in Nigeria. There is a deliberate attempt by NASRDA to control its exposure, and they are doing a darn good job on this. Most Nigeria’s May have never heard of a secrete missile development program, much less carrying out field testing.
It is here, in this highly secured complexes that a variety of brilliant engineers work together to build rockets and other space shuttles. From electrical and electronics engineers to mechanical engineers, chemical engineers to professionals in other fields that are relevant to rocket research.
All the materials used to build these rockets are locally sourced, including the chemicals used to fuel them. The rockets built are tested in an open space on the property but far away from human activities.
The last launch achieved about 5 km of altitude. They keep testing until we get it right. We started from less than 1 km. It’s just about the altitude and one day hitting orbit.
Engineers at the research facility say that based on their progress, the agency should be able to launch a rocket into space from Nigerian soil before 2030.
The story of Nigeria’s space programme dates back to 1976 but it was not until 1999 that the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) was established.
The agency, under the Ministry of Science and Technology is mandated to pursue “the attainment of space capabilities as an essential tool for Nigeria’s socio-economic development and the enhancement of the quality of life of its people.”
In 2002, NASRDA set up a 28-year roadmap for the research, development and launching of satellites into orbit from Nigerian soil by 2030. Top on the list was launching a satellite into space.
In 2003, Nigeria launched its first satellite, NigeriaSat-1 into space from Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia and has since made tremendous progress, according to another CSTP staff.
After the NigeriaSat-1, we have launched about three other satellites; NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X, also launched from Russia and the NigComSat-1R which was launched from China. What we’re now working on is a rocket that will be assembled and launched by Nigerian indigenous engineers before 2030.”
The agency, which celebrated the third year anniversary of the launch of two earth observation satellites, NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X, also announced that the nation was working seriously to acquire a Synthetic Aperture Radar Satellite (SAR) to consolidate on the nation’s inroad into the space world.
In 2015 Nigeria shocked the world when it beat NASA, the Russian Space Agency and the European Space Agency to win the bid to provide communications satellite technology services to the Republic of Belarus over a 15-year period. Becoming the first and only African nation to host and manage the satellite of a European country.
The Belarus satellite bid has further positioned Nigeria among top global communications satellite players. It should be noted also that Nigeria leases transponders to neighbouring Ghana, Gabon, Cote’dVoire and several other countries using its NIGCOMSAT -1R infrastructure. And with more sattelites in orbit than the rest of the continent combined, Nigeria’s status as Africa’s premier Space faring nation was further cemented by this deal. Raking in $600 million annually from Belarus satellite.