Nigeria made international headlines last year for becoming the first sub-Saharan Africa nation to launch a satellite to space. The Nigerian satellite was a Nano satellite; a miniature, low mass, and low size satellite weighing less than 500kg (1,102 pounds) mostly used for environmental studies.
Nigeria by all standards has achieved no mean feat by launching a Nano satellite (fully constructed by Nigerian engineers) into space and backed by an earth station (also fully built by the country’s engineers). The country has already raised the bar for not just other sub-Saharan Africa nations, but also developing countries around the world.
But that’s not enough for the Nigerian engineers…they’re claiming the world
It is being reported by a section of news outlets across Nigeria that the country’s National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), says that thanks to their Nano satellite. Nigeria is poised to become the center of satellite businesses across the world. The technology that went into designing the satellite could become the go-to-platform for searching missing planes. NASRDA claims their satellite has the capacity to locate and track every plane within and outside the Nigerian airspace.
Prof. Mohammed Seidu, the Director General at NASRDA was quoted saying: “I am happy to be part of a country that launched a Nano satellite with modern tracking technologies of the airspace. Since launch, we have been orbiting and are in touch with our ground receiving station.
The beauty of it, is that the ground receiving station was also locally designed and built by our engineers, which means, the coding is known by us and through that, we are able to do a number of things with it.”
Prof. Seidu say the ground station was built locally in Nigeria then established in Florida.
“With the Nano satellite, every aircraft within a particular location above us is located, through a special antenna which serves as base station. From the aircraft position, we navigate all the airspace via this antenna, while the ground station also gives accurate data of every air traffic to the control systems. That is why it helps us to keep a surveillance of every aircraft that flies above the airspace.”
The professor believes that if the Nigerian satellite was around at the time the Malaysian plane went missing. The NASRDA would have been able to track the plane in no time.
“Like the Malaysian aircraft that got missing, with this system now, we can keep tabs on every aircraft that flies to every location around the world. If it flew within Nigeria, we know the time, the date it flew and it is very cost effective. It can also give you the speed, distance, height, the type of aircraft and then the route it is heading to…
From the cockpit of the aircraft, we were able to make a triangular quadrant of how planes navigate. With the satellite, all the aircraft within our airspace can be seen real time. Through this system, we have records of all the aircraft that previously flew over Nigeria, including the day, time, and date they did.”
It appears NASRDA is rooting for mass deployment of the antennae throughout the length and breadth of the Nigerian airspace. The agency is said to have already engaged the Nigeria Federal Aviation authority to map out plans to replace the conventional radar system and see airports around the country adopt the new Nano satellite in its operations.
Prof. Seidu and his team are convinced their new technology could provide the Federal Aviation authority a real-time and cost-effective way of managing the Nigerian airspace. The professor further adds that their satellite could also guide the pilot navigate more conveniently.
‘A Nano satellite to see all planes across the globe from the globe… that’s a big fuss.’
It appears not all engineers at NASRDA believe Nigeria’s Nano satellite can do all it has been said it can do. In fact, some engineers are quite taken aback that search things could even be said about the satellite.
“I get tired of people making exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims over very little feats. How did they know the recently launched Nano satellite can track and locate planes outside Nigeria’s radar? What is the size of a Nano satellite? If the satellite can do all that with its moderate cost, why would any country ever need a bigger satellite which costs fortunes?” said Eng. Alphonsus Ezeibe who seems quite disturbed at what he calls exaggerated capability of Nigeria’s Nano satellite.
“If the country was able to launch a Nano satellite to solve our domestic surveillance problems, particularly with earth station designed by fellow Nigerian engineers, that’s a feat worth celebrating. But we must leave it at that without making bogus claims that may blow on our faces tomorrow if called for action.”
Search for Missing Planes could become lucrative business
The Malaysian Flight MH370 which went missing en route Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March 2014 with 239 people on board is one of the greatest aviation mysteries in the world. Recently, the Malaysia government, after years of multiple search and rescue missions that all ended with no results, has pledged $70 million to the U.S. firm Ocean Infinity if they locate the plane wreckage within 90 days.