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Developing satellite technology to tackle insecurity

By Chukwuma Muanya
20 May 2021   |   4:15 am
The National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) has stressed the need for development of satellite technology as a tool tackling the menace of insecurity in the country...

Space agency explains why rocket debris cannot not fall into Nigeria
The National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) has stressed the need for development of satellite technology as a tool tackling the menace of insecurity in the country, which is currently causing havoc in the political, social and economic fabric of the nation.

Director General, NASRDA, Dr. Halilu Shaba, in an interactive session during a special presentation in honour of his formal assumption of office in Abuja, described the Agency as a strategic partner as it possesses relevant capabilities and specialisation in providing support towards combating the security challenges.

According to him, the Agency, as a stakeholder, has a lot to do by ensuring collaborative effort with relevant security organisations to combat the security situation, which has portrayed Nigeria in a bad light to the rest of the world.

Shaba reiterated the need for Nigeria, through NASRDA, to “take our place in space and also take our place on earth” by providing the necessary ingredients for the development of the Nigerian society through the instrumentality of Space Science and technology.

The NASRDA DG advocated the need for inclusiveness, collectivism and capacity building as an essential tool for policy formulation and implementation of the National Space Programme.

The NASRDA helmsman further said that with the medium and high resolution satellites, which have been used in time past to provide relevant imageries to security agencies, NASRDA is ready to deploy the capabilities of these satellites in providing data of flash points, which will be highly beneficial in the fight against insecurity.

He also advocated the creation of the National Reconnaissance Centre in collaboration with security agencies under the control of the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), where relevant security information would be domiciled.

Shaba, therefore, expressed his commitment towards pursuing the realisation of NASRDA’s mandate, which among other things, include the deployment of space technology in providing solutions to the problem of mankind. He called for collaboration between stakeholders especially the Defence Space Administration (DSA) who are in the forefront of providing solutions to insecurity in the country using space technology.

In his remark, the immediate past Acting Director General of NASRDA, Dr. Francis Chizea, advocated the need for maximum cooperation especially amongst relevant stakeholders with the aim of achieving the objectives of the National Space Programme of which the space agency plays a leading role.

Chizea also stressed the need for management and staff of the Agency to be passionate and ensure teamwork as this will serve as a springboard for taking the Agency and Nigeria as a country to higher heights.

The former Acting DG concluded that all hands must be on deck by all to achieve the effective implementation of the National Space Programme and most importantly, make NASRDA Nigeria’s common collective interest.

Meanwhile, NASRDA urged Nigerians to disregard the report that debris from a Chinese rocket that caused serious damages in Abidjan or any other rocket may fall into Nigeria at any time.

According to reports, debris from a Chinese rocket was expected to plunge through the earth’s atmosphere and might hit Abuja.

Chinese space agency said a large segment of a Chinese rocket re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrated over the Indian Ocean on Sunday, following fevered speculation over where the 18-tonne object would come down.

Officials in Beijing had said there was little risk from the freefalling segment of the Long March-5B rocket, which had launched the first module of China’s new space station into Earth orbit on April 29.

Director of Corporate Communications, NASRDA, Dr. Felix Alle, who spoke to The Guardian on behalf of the Director General, Dr. Halilu Shaba, said: “Nigeria is a member of committee on safe use of outer space. It is against the treaty of the committee for a partner to allow the debris to fall into Nigeria. If ever it will, it will be into an ocean not in an area it will create damages.

“We appeal to Nigerians to disregard the rumour because of the good relationship between China and Nigeria. We are one of the countries collaborating with China in so many areas. The first communication satellite launched by Nigeria was with China.”

But NASRDA, in statement, said: “On the April 29, 2021 the Chinese Space Administration launched the Long March 5B (LM-5, also known as Chang Zheng 5 (CZ-5). It is a Chinese heavy-lift launch vehicle developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT). It is the first Chinese launch vehicle designed to use exclusively non-hypergolic liquid propellants. As the name goes, it is the fifth iteration of the Long March rocket family, named after the Chinese Red Army’s Long March, during the Chinese Civil War (1934–35).”

The rocket, Long March 5B, launched the main module of China’s next space station, Tiangong. Originally injected into an elliptical orbit approximately 160km by 375km (99 miles by 233 miles) above the Earth’s surface the Long March-5b core stage soon began to lose height.

According to the statement, usually, the large booster stages of rockets immediately drop back to Earth after they are jettisoned, but the 23-ton core stage of the Long March 5B accompanied the space station segment all the way to orbit. The full rocket contained multiple pieces. Several smaller side boosters dropped off shortly after the launch, crashing harmlessly in the Pacific Ocean. But the core booster stage a 10-story cylinder weighing 23 ton empty carried the Tianhe module into orbit. Disposing of used, unwanted rocket pieces in the ocean is a common practice.

Parts of the Long March 5B rocket re-entered the atmosphere at 10:24 a.m. Beijing time (10:24 p.m. ET), the China Manned Space Agency said in an English-language statement on its website. Because of friction caused by the rocket rubbing against air at the top of the atmosphere, it soon began losing altitude, making what is called “uncontrolled re-entry” back to Earth inevitable.

According to Washington Post Long March 5B was one of the largest objects to plunge back to Earth on an uncontrollable trajectory. China’s space administration, which had said nothing about the uncontrolled re-entry until Sunday, announced that the debris had entered Earth’s atmosphere over the Mediterranean before flying over the Middle East and coming down near the Maldives, south of India. People in Israel and Oman reported sightings of the rocket debris on social media.

The remains of a Chinese rocket that was hurtling back towards Earth have crashed into the Indian Ocean early Sunday morning the country’s space agency says. Though the bulk of the rocket was destroyed as it re-entered the atmosphere, but state media reported that debris landed just west of the Maldives on Sunday. The falling area is located in the surrounding waters of 72.47oE and 2.65oN.

According to NASRDA, “It should be noted that China has a long history of letting pieces of its space equipment come down where they may. Rockets from one of its principal launch sites, the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province, routinely fell on rural areas downrange, occasionally causing damage.
Also Last year, the first launch of a Long March 5B rocket lifted a prototype of China’s crewed space capsule. The booster from that rocket also made an uncontrolled re-entry, with some debris raining down on a village in Ivory Coast.”

Meanwhile, the much expected Muslim celebration Eid al-Fitr started yesterday, Wednesday May 12, 2021, rather than today (Thursday) May 13, 2021 as the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) through its Centre for Basic Space Science (CBSS) had predicted that the conjunction of the moon would occur at about 8:00pm on Tuesday May 11, 2021 while the first astronomical lunar crescent would appear in Nigeria on Wednesday May 12, 2021 at about 8:30am.

According to earlier reports, the Islamic calendar follows the phases of the moon, commonly known as the lunar cycle. As a result, the Holy month of Ramadan falls approximately 10 days earlier each year in the Gregorian calendar. The Ramadan started on Monday April 12, 2021, following the sighting of the moon over Mecca. Lasting for 30 days, Ramadan will end on Tuesday May 11, 2021, with the celebratory days of Eid al-Fitr starting on Wednesday May 12, 2021 or Thursday May 13 2021.

Eid al-Fitr meaning ‘Festival of Breaking the Fast’ is the important holiday that follows the month of Ramadan. Celebrated for up to three days, Eid al-Fitr does not begin until the sighting of the moon. It is a time for great feasts, the giving of gifts to children and spending time with dear ones.

Meanwhile, NASRDA, in a statement, signed by Head, Media and Corporate Communications, Dr. Felix Ale, said that the agency saddled with the responsibility of carrying out scientific observation of the nearest celestial object to the Earth which is the moon, has successfully calculated that the very first appearance of the lunar crescent cannot be seen with unaided eyes because of its size and likely light, but will be visible to the naked eye in the evening sky of Wednesday May 12, 2021 between 6:21pm and 7:42pm after sun set in Nigeria.

According to NASRDA, the first lunar crescent visibility in States are as follows; Yola in Adamawa State will be the first to witness the first young lunar crescent from about 6:21pm to 6:57pm and followed by Maiduguri in Borno State from 6:23pm to 6:59pm.

It said the city of Jalingo in Taraba State will be the next to witness the appearance from 6:26pm to 7:02pm, while Yobe State in the city of Damaturu and Gombe state will experience the appearance of the Lunar crescent from about 6:28pm to 7:04pm, and 6:29pm to 7:05pm respectively.

In Abuja the country’s capital City, the Lunar crescent will appear at 6:45pm and end with moonset at about 7:27pm while Kano and Sokoto will experience Lunar Crescent between 6:42pm and 7:19pm; and 6:57pm and 7:43pm respectively with Kano having a sunset at 6:42pm and moonset at 7:24pm.

Also, Abeokuta in Ogun State will experience the appearance of the Lunar crescent between 6:56pm and 7:33pm, while in Katsina state the first lunar crescent will appear between the hours of 6:47pm and 7:24pm with sunset and moonset at about 6:47pm and 7:29pm respectively.

The Agency also said Jos in Plateau state and Kaduna state will experience the crescent from between 6:38pm and 7:14pm, and between 6:44pm and 7:21pm respectively.

According to calculations the sunset and moonset in both states will be 6:38pm and 7:19pm and 6:44pm and 7:26pm respectively.

It noted that the crescent would be sighted in Enugu from 6:38pm to 7:15pm, with sunset and moonset at about 6:38pm and 7:20pm respectively while it will be lastly sighted in Birnin Kebbi between 7:00pm to 7:37pm.

NASRDA said all other States of the federation would experience the lunar crescent between the estimated time of 6:21pm and 7:42pm on Wednesday, May 12, 2021.

According to the Space Agency all results released by the Agency show precise date, appearance time of first crescent, time of sunset as well as moonset for all the State Capitals and the Federal Capital Territory on Wednesday May 12, 2021.

The statement added that, the calculated results are made available for the information of the general public especially those who would need them for religious and academic purposes.

NASRDA said scientific researchers should be at liberty to request for detailed analyses or more results for other cities within the federation other than the State capitals from the Space Agency.