As FG Plans to Launch Nigeria’s 5th Satellite, How Exactly Do These Satellites Impact Our Lives?
Nigeria’s space agency has announced it’s making plans to launch a new satellite to replace the NigeriaSat-2 orbiting the earth.
According to the acting director-general of Nigeria Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Francis Chizea the agency has started working towards the successful launch of the new satellite.
Nigeria has successfully launched 4 Satellites into Orbit
Since 2003, Nigeria has been operating its own satellites. During that time, the country has successfully completed four satellite launches with three still orbiting the Earth.
The first Nigerian satellite ‘NigeriaSat-1’, which costs about $13 million was built by Surrey Space Technology (SST) in the UK and launched from a Russian spaceport.
The NigeriaSat-1 orbited the earth until 2012, four years longer than was expected. In 2011, Nigeria launched the NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X which was also developed and built by UK-based firm, Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) to succeed the Sat-1.
The NigeriaSat-X was built in partnership with Nigerian engineers
9 years later, the NASRDA is making plans to launch another satellite to succeed the NigeriaSat-2. Similar to previous satellites, the new satellites will probably be equipped with data collection and detection equipment like high-resolution optical and infrared cameras.
Equipped with these instruments, the Nigerian satellites provide information and data that could help Nigerians in several ways, but they are generally untapped. Here are some ways these satellites should impact our lives.
Instead of spending millions taking area photographs using helicopters or engaging physical mapping, the high optical cameras from Nigeria’s satellite could easily replicate real-time mapping data that the government can use for urban planning. It could also be adopted to better map out and review electoral boundaries to be used during elections.
Similarly, information gotten from mapping state and international borders can help prevent and resolve border dispute like the popular Bakassi border tussle with Cameroun.
Water Resources Management
Desert encroachment has been a major cause of loss of natural water resources, especially in the north. For example, Lake Chad since 1960 has lost more than 90% of its water to climate change and desert encroachment. This loss of water supply has significantly affected the lives of more than 20 million people depending on it.
UN says 10.7 million people in the Lake Chad basin need humanitarian relief to survive
However, the gravity of the effect of desert encroachment on the Lake Chad could have been reduced if the early warning from satellite data were used.
Looking forward, leveraging on the early detection of desert encroachment by satellite data could help the government mitigate or plan ahead of the effect it has on the major resources like water.
Satellite data can be used to monitor agriculture production and ensure food security by monitoring crops on the field. It can be very instrumental in foreseeing and warning attacks from pest like locusts.
According to the WorldBank, a large swarm of locust can eat up to 1.8 million metric tons of green vegetation. This is equivalent to food enough to feed 81 million people.
Locust invasion is one of the biggest challenges affecting food supply in West Africa today. By monitoring their movement and buildup, satellite data can help farmers protect their farms by giving them early warning of incoming locust swarms so that they can guard against it. It could help in warning them of possible desertification and encroachment on farmland by tracking its spread.
Apart from tracking pest, satellite data can also be used to track infectious insects to the environment that breed them. For example, Nigeria has the largest burden of malaria in Africa but very little is known about the distribution of (Anopheles) mosquitoes overlap or differ across the country.
Malaria is responsible for more than 781,000 deaths annually
The use of data gathered from satellites could, however, solve this as it can be used to establish a relationship between malaria vectors and the environment that breeds them. By highlighting these environment people can take preemptive measures against the disease by destroying their breeding grounds.
Disaster Mitigation and Management
Another major use of satellites is monitoring disaster-prone areas. By monitoring these areas it can over time predict when a disaster might strike thereby give people time to get to safety.
In Nigeria, this could save a lot of lives as there are a number of disaster-prone areas like states bothering the Sahara Desert’s southern fringe, the coastal towns of Lagos among others. These areas face either severe droughts in the dry season or devastating rainfall in the wet season.
In 2019, flooding affected over 210,000 people with 171 casualties recorded in hospital and 130,610 people reported being displaced.
Apart from prediction, satellite imagery can also be used to get rapid images of environmental disasters when they strike. This data could significantly help in the deployment of rescue, emergency services and relief services in hot zones.
In 2005, NigeriaSat-1 was the first satellite to send back pictures of the east coast of the US following Hurricane Katrina
The immense benefits that Nigeria’s observation satellites could provide make the millions of dollars that will be spent worth it. However, it appears that the government are severely underusing its capabilities as there are little or no footprints of its uses to alleviate the problems like flooding in the country.
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