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NIGCOMSAT explains de-orbiting of satellite, alleged ‘lying idle in space’


Space technologyTHE management of NIGCOMSAT Limited has explained the de-orbiting of its satellite and the alleged ‘lying idle in space.’

Spokesperson and Head of Public Relations Unit of NIGCOMSAT Limited, Mr. Adamu Idris, told The Guardian in a telephone chat that the Nigerian communication satellite, NigComSat-1, was never lost or stolen; neither did it disappear but was simply de-orbited. Idris said its replacement, NigComSat-1R, is therefore occupying the same orbital slot 42.5 degrees that was initially occupied by NigComSat-1. He said NigComSat-1R will be four years in orbit by the end of this year and it has footprints in Nigeria and other West African countries.

But stakeholders led by the House of Representatives had penultimate week called for immediate address of the myriad of problems surrounding the Nigerian communications satellite, popularity known as NigComSat-1, the multi-million dollar communication satellite, which spanned out of control just 18 months after launch.

They alleged that although the satellite was re-launched in December 2011, with a lifespan of 15 years, the NigComSat-1 was ‘lying idle in space.’

They called for investigation into the inter-agency rivalry between the National Space Research and Development Agency (NARSDA) and the Nigeria Communications Satellite Limited, said to be the reason why the satellite was idle.

But Idris further explained: “NigComSat-1R is Nigeria’s Communication Satellite, launched December 19, 2011 as a replacement for the first Sub-Saharan Communication Satellite, NigComSat-1, which was launched in 2007 and de-orbited in November 2008, due to single offset event on the power subsystem.

“Curiously, it should be noted that NigComSat-1 was already being utilized by various Nigerian banks (through their Internet Service Provider) and other customers, including a CDMA operator (to provide back-hauling services), before it was de-orbited. Consequently, customers’ sites were migrated to another satellite through a back-up agreement between NIGCOMSAT LTD and another satellite operator. Other customers that could not migrate were offered outage credit on NigComSat-1R as compensation. This is a standard procedure in the satellite industry.

“The satellite business is a high yielding, yet high-risk. It is therefore imperative to insure not only the satellite but also other ground infrastructure. NigComSat-1 was insured and thus when de-orbited; the insurance compensation was used for the launch of its replacement, NigComSat-1R.

“Communications Satellites are geostationary located at a distance of 33,000km from the earth surface. These satellites are located at different orbital slots and are coordinated (frequency coordination) to ensure that they do not interfere with one another. Communication satellites can be de-orbited for various reasons ranging from a problem occurring with the satellite (as in the case of NigComSat-1) to when the satellite has reached its End-of-Life. Even when a satellite is in orbit, station keeping is carried out from a Satellite Control Operating Centre (SCC) to ensure that the satellite maintains its orbital slot and does not collide or interfere with other satellites.

“A satellite that is de-orbited is thus moved from its orbital slot through series of commands issued by the SCC that is managing that satellite to a “Graveyard orbit”. The repercussion of leaving NigComSat-1 at its orbital slot would have caused liabilities against NIGCOMSAT LTD and invariably the Nigerian Government by other satellite operators/owners/countries, on the likely event that the SCC loses communication with the satellite and the satellite would shift from its orbital slot and collide with other satellites in space.
“…. In addition to this, it also covers parts of Southern, East and Central Africa and parts of Asia and Europe. It has four payloads, namely C-band, Ka-band, Ku-band and L-band. It has a minimum lifespan of 15 years, with a reliability of 99.9 per cent.

“Although NigComSat-1R was launched into space in 2011, commercial activities did not commence till March 2012 after In-Orbit Test (IOT) had been conducted on the satellite and its parameters to ensure compliance to design specifications. This is also an industry procedure.

“At present, NigComSat-1R is utilized by customers/resellers both within and outside Nigeria. These customers include government, private, schools and colleges, international organizations amongst others.

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