The Nigerian Institution of Space Engineers (NISE) has said that the ground station for data collection from satellites is a critical infrastructure of the Federal Government that requires support and funding. Dr Sadiq Umar, National Chairman of NISE said this on Thursday at the 9th National Conference and Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the institution in Abuja.
The conference is with the theme, “Satellite Ground System as Critical Space Infrastructure for National Development”, the ground station infrastructure development was focused on satellites NigeriaSat-2 and NigComSat-1R launched in August in Russia and December 2011 in China respectively. The country has two ground stations domicile at the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) for earth observation and the second within Nigeria Communication Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT) for communications satellite data reading.
A ground station is a terrestrial radio station designed for extra-planetary telecommunication with spacecraft or reception of radio waves from astronomical radio sources. According to Umar, our ground station facilities are decaying and they are so important that without it you cannot get information from satellites. The chairman said that during the launch of the country’s satellites, engineers and scientists were trained to operate satellites in all capacities, adding that it is a rare technological skill.
“Some of our engineers were part of the ground station training during the launch of our satellites in China, in the U.S., which involves the frequency of receiving data, frequency of transmitting data.
“It is important that our ground stations are well funded and managed properly, it translates to money, and it will generate funds for the FG. If you are generating funds, it means the government is also getting tax out of it,” he said.
Umar disclosed that some of the software procured for the operation of the satellites is becoming outdated and required an upgrade. According to him, we are still downloading images but we need to work with what is obtainable in other countries. Mr Adekunle Mokuolu, President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), said that the Federal Government was working on promoting local content, adding that building the ground station infrastructure was part of it.
“We have satellites not yet expired which are designed to stay beyond expiration dates because components of the satellites are made to stay beyond expiration. The ground station maintenance is not well planned initially to cover for many years.
“When the satellites were launched, ground station maintenance was planned for one year which is not meant to be and now we are in the eighth year.
“Ground stations are planned for longer periods because it is on the ground and we can substitute its components and if there is any component with issues, it can be replaced.
“Even with the launch of another satellite, we will not need to build another ground station but just to incorporate some functionality we have to the existing ones,” Mohammed said.
He decried that in recent years, security agencies buy satellite data from the U.S. and other countries satellites which amounts to millions of dollars. According to him, when our ground stations are in place, we will provide them with such data free and other countries will also buy from us.
“When we launched NigSat-2, U. S., China, Canada requested for lots of images from us and we commercialised then.”