2020 in Review – Nigerian Space Agency

Dr Francis Chizea, NASRDA Acting Director General.

The Nigerian space program took an exciting turn earlier in the year when it got new leadership, since then, it has been a busy period for the Agency in charge, the National Space Research and Development Agency. In June, the new leadership of the Agency announced plans to revise the National Space Policy and the new plan to construct two additional satellites for the country. In October, we reported the proposed budget for the Nigerian space program for 2021 is a 23% increase on the 2020 budget, indicating that despite the ongoing Pandemic, the country is committed to spending more on its space program. 

In line with Space in Africa’s 2020 in Review series, we had a chat with Dr Francis Chizea, the Director-General of the National Space Research and Development Agency on what the Agency has been up to in 2020 and what to look forward to in 2021. 

What are the milestones achieved by NASRDA in 2020?

The Agency is currently engaging in research projects titled Quick Win Projects aimed at addressing specific issues including food security, human security, disaster management, climate change, data management and educational packages in space science especially relating to the nation’s post-Covid recovery plans. In 2020, we commissioned and fully funded 23 Quick Win projects at the Agency, one very remarkable project is the building of the first made in Nigeria satellite which will be launched in 2021 when we can secure a suitable launch opportunity. Some of the other projects funded and being implemented include the following:

    1. Smart GSM/GPRS+GPS-Based Emergency Management System to Support Security and Health Services; to address disaster management, security, quick response (Health and relieve materials).
    2. Development and Implementation of Low-Cost IoT Based Farmland Irrigation, Pest Monitoring and Control System: food security; better management of natural resources, improvement in the science of farming.
    3. Quadcopter Swarm Project (QUSP): for search and rescue operations, in addition to disaster management.
    4. A Planning Based Data Mining Resource Platform for the Optimization of Planning Related Resources to enhance Decision making of the Agency: an effective data management solution.
    5. Development of Electrode Material for Supercapacitor Energy Storage for Application in Satellite Power System; satellite development and scientific advancement.
    6. Modular Satellite for Training (MOST): satellite development and scientific advancement.
    7. Measurement and Characterization of Atmospheric Carbon-dioxide, Pressure and Temperature in The Lower Atmosphere using A CANSAT Satellite Model: educational package to create awareness of space science.
    8. Design and Development of a Prototype Locally Made Multi-Wing Copter: monitoring and surveillance technology, data and image acquisitions and remote sensing technology.
    9. Review of Designs and Development of a Cold Gas Thruster System for Control of High-altitude Balloon for Lower/Higher Atmospheric Studies: 
    10. Design and Fabrication of Satellite Box Structure Using AI-Ti nanoparticles Support Groundnut Shell Activated Carbon Composite for Improved Mechanical Properties: advanced engineering, satellite development and scientific advancement.
    11. Effects of Wistar Rats Exposed to High Radiofrequency Radiation: this research is aimed at researching the long-term effects of high radio-frequency radiation on humans. Since Wistar rats bear the closest resemblance to humans in terms of physiology, the experiment would be carried out using the rats.
    12. Comparative Research Analysis on Performance of Mild Steel and Manganese Designed Waveguide for Ku Band Satellite Transponder: this research aims at checking the level of impedance mismatch using mild steel and manganese as an alternative to other design materials when building transponders.
    13. Indigenous Design of a Generic Satellite Power System Module: this project aims to design a fully indigenous satellite power system (SPS) and also give future NASRDA Engineers and Scientists a training model for the SPS module.
    14. Satellite-Enabled Autonomous Drone to Combat the Spread of Covid-19: this project aims to build an indigenous and cost-effective GPS-assisted drone with a drone sprayer system technology attached to help with the fight against Covid-19. This technology would be beneficial in the Agricultural sector.
    15. Security Surveillance System Using RFID and Image Processing Technologies: this project aims to develop a security surveillance system that captures real-time video feeds that communicates with a database for an entrance system. The system would also make use of an RFID sticker attached to vehicles and Staff ID cards which would activate a boom barrier for persons in the database.
    16. Design and Development of a Real-Time Control Centre for Space Exploration and Education: Awareness of Space Science and Technology amongst Nigerians is very low. This is an Educational Project that aims to fill that gap by creating Space awareness amongst youngsters in Primary and Secondary School via a hands-on experience in amateur radio operation using frequencies outside the regular GSM frequency range.
    17. Design and Development of Satellite and RF Transmitter Tracking System Algorithm for Fixed and Mobile Station Receivers: this project aims to design and develop an indigenous and cost-effective satellite tracking system for tracking satellites in any orbit system. This technology would be beneficial for Technicians of Satellite TV operators such as DSTV and generate some much-needed revenue for the Agency.
    18. N-Track App (Nigeria-Sat Track): this project aims to develop an indigenous android mobile application available on the Google Play Store that enables users to accurately track and predict satellite passes of Nigerian Space Assets over a defined location or location of interest. This app would also be useful for educational institutions in Space Technology related research.
  • Food for the Nigerian Astronaut: this research project aims to design and develop various indigenous nutritional ingredients and meals that can be specially created and modified to provide specific requirements of a balanced diet for Nigerian Astronauts taking into cognizance their general well-being in relation to microgravity conditions which result in weight and bone density loss which can impact their health and performance.

How are these projects selected, and what is the process for selection?

Quick win projects are selected after the teams made a presentation to and before all the technical staff of the Agency (Scientist and Engineers), the heads of the technical departments now meet to consider the impact of such project with regards to implementing the National Space Policy and Programme. A lot of consideration is taken into play, These include but not limited to the following: Budget, Timeline, the composition of the team, the required facility for the team to be able to deliver on their project, expected impact with regards to commercialization with the view to earning funds for more research and in line with the Internal Generated  Revenue Policy of the present administration, Domestication  of the technology (using mainly locally source materials)

How are they being funded and how much funding is going into these?

Funding for these projects is from allocations to the Agency from appropriation, and the amount is based on the requirement for the completion of the project. The amount is determined during the meeting of the Heads of the Technical Departments.

Who are those implementing these? Are they staff of NASRDA or commercial companies in the country or research institutions?

The quick win projects are implemented hundred per cent by Scientists and Engineers of NASRDA, including the Centres and Advance Laboratories; we have more than enough required personnel to do this.

Is this something opened up to the entire country or exclusive to NASRDA?

Research result findings are open to all Nigerians (Public and Private). This is also to encourage inter Agency collaboration and PPP.

What is the progress on the Agency’s plan to revise its Space Policy and the work on the replacement satellites?

We have produced a revised space policy which will be presented to the Space Council for Approval in 2021. Plans for the replacement of the NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X with the NigeriaSat-3 and NigeriaSAR-1 are in top gear, and the process is expected to commence fully in 2021.

How much impact does the Pandemic have on the project implementation, and how were you able to mitigate this?

The Pandemic affected many of the plans of the Agency in 2020 as it indeed affected every other sector of Nigeria’s economy. The Government had to revise the 2020 budget accordingly as the country lost a lot of revenue from the sale of crude oil because the world economy was shut down for more than five months.  The Agency, however, maximized the funds available to it thus the projects mentioned in answer one.

What are the plans for 2021? What are the new milestones you are set to achieve in the coming year, and what are the new projects you will be pursuing?

The main project to be focused on in 2021 is the replacement of the NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X, while we will continue to fund more Quick Win projects and take the once started in 2020 to the next level.

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