The Director General of the Nigerian National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Dr S. O. Mohammed says Nigeria is working towards locally designing and building a satellite by 2018 with the capability to launch one by 2030.
Mohammed disclosed that the agency has already launched five satellites into orbit since 2003, though none of those was from within Nigeria. He said that the agency has plans to launch more in the near future, given the right funding. He however said these projects were about “capacity building” in the expectation that these advancements will eventually turn Nigeria into a regional space innovation hub.
“We have always said … the Nigerian space program is not going to be an ego trip. We are not part of the race for the moon, we’re not part of the race for Mars. What we need to look at is using the space program to look at how we can create typical Nigerian solutions to most of our problems.”
The Agency’s immediate priority is to launch a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite capable of penetrating cloud coverage. The images would help monitor activities in the Gulf of Guinea, which has recently seen a rise in pirate activity.
NASRDA has a 2,000-member staff. Mohammed recalled that eight years ago, the agency boasted only six scientists with advanced doctorate degrees. Now, the number of doctorates on the agency’s staff has increased to 70, and another 50 employees are studying in pursuit of advanced degrees.
As regards the funding for the project, he said that NASRDA has been granted $20 million this financial year to keep operations going, but it needs $65 million more to get its next satellite project off the ground. He however said that the cost would be minimal in comparison to other projects since much of the groundwork had already been done.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel, he said. The Nigerian model is a good model for the developing world. We’re not starting all over like the U.S. or Russia”.