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Nigeria satellite launch delayed

Posted by BBC on 2003/09/26 | Views: 584 |

Nigeria satellite launch delayed

For countries like Nigeria, space-based observation makes sense

The launch of Nigeria's first satellite from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia has been delayed for 24 hours.

Russian Itar-Tass news agency said launching the Kosmos-3M booster rocket, carrying six satellites in total, was stopped after concerns about the rocket's fuel system or the launch equipment. Experts are now said to be re-checking all the systems and the launch has been rescheduled to 1012 (0612 GMT) on Saturday.

BBC science correspondent Richard Black says NigeriaSat-1 is one of five satellites which will - when they have all been launched - make up a network called the Disaster Monitoring Constellation. Each satellite belongs to one country, but they will share information with each other when disaster monitoring is needed. The rest of the time, each nation can use its satellite as it wishes. The Nigerian satellite will monitor natural disasters, though Nigeria will also be able to use it for observing its own territory. For large countries such as Nigeria, space-based observation can make economic sense, as monitoring things like deforestation and water resources from the ground can be very laborious.

'Starting small'

"If you have a volcanic eruption that is going to take place, a satellite can tell you in advance that this volcanic eruption is coming," says former Nigerian presidential advisor on space Dr Ade Abiodun. "And therefore the decision-makers now have adequate information to warn the populace to move away." However, Dr Abiodun says this is just the start.

Either you decide to place people everywhere to monitor [Nigeria] on the ground, or you launch one satellite  - Space consultant Stefan Barensky

"You start small - you learn from that experience - and from that you gain a lot of capability," he says. "Eventually, just like Korea has done and the Indians have done and the Brazilians have done and the Chinese have done, the Nigerians can produce their own satellites home-made."

The Disaster Monitoring Constellation satellites, which cost less than $10 million each, have been built by a British-based company, Surrey Satellite Technology, which has also trained technicians from Nigeria and some of the other countries involved. The idea is to build expertise which helps them develop their own space programmes.

First steps It is a novel concept and some would say satellites are a luxury for poorer nations - but Stefan Barensky, a consultant on international space issues, says they are an efficient use of public money. "Nigeria is a very big country with an important agriculture, with important resources, and a fast-growing population, so if you're the government, the Nigerian Government, you have to manage all this," he says. "And either you decide to place people everywhere to monitor this on the ground, or you launch one satellite."

While Nigeria is taking its first steps into space, other countries such as India and China have operated satellites for many years and have built effective launch rockets. China is also expected shortly to become only the third nation ever to put humans into space.

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