Friday, 26 September 2003

More on the Nigerian Space Programme

Updating my previous post on the subject comes an article from Space Daily :
A joint team from Surrey Satellite Technology, Nigeria and Turkey have completed the preparation, test and integration of three new spacecraft as part of the Disaster Monitoring Constellation and are scheduled for launch onboard a Kosmos rocket at 06:11 GMT on Friday 26 September 2003.

The three spacecraft are: BILSAT for Turkish customer Tubitak-ODTU Bilten, NigeriaSat-1 for Nigerian customer National Space Research & Development Agency and UK-DMC funded by the UK Government.

Each spacecraft has passed through a rigorous testing process covering all flight equipment to ensure that they remain in full flight readiness following their transit from SSTL at the Surrey Space Centre in the UK to the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia.

The joint SSTL, Nigerian and Turkish launch team have concluded tests on all payloads, gathering and analyising data to ensure that each system is fully operational and ready for launch.

Each of the onboard batteries have been trickle-charged to full power and the propulsion tanks filled with butane, having mounted each spacecraft on a special jig to enable the filling process.

Electro-initiators on each spacecraft to separate from the launch vehicle have been prepared and full checks carried out with the Kosmos launch vehicle to ensure that electrical interfaces are compatible to provide sufficient power for proper operation of the separation systems.

Throughout the three-week test and integration process, know-how training has continued for the four Nigerian and Turkish engineers at Plesetsk. Meanwhile, SSTL engineers will continue to train Turkish and Nigerian ground station engineers in Ankara and Abuja respectively as satellite commissioning commences immediately after launch.
Launching even a small satellite requires an awful lot of these steps, and each one absolutely, positively has to be 100% right. But once you've got a team trained up, the Sky's no longer the limit.
The DMC will provide daily imaging at 32m resolution and up to a 600km swath across the world, enabling rapid repeat imaging for regular updates of disaster situations - something not achievable by any other commercial satellite currently in orbit.

The DMC is a novel international partnership, brought together by SSTL and supported by the British National Space Centre (BNSC) MicroSatellite Applications in Collaboration (MOSAIC) programme, which has given financial assistance to small satellite programmes.

An enhanced DMC satellite for China, currently under construction at SSTL at the Surrey Space Centre, will join the DMC when it is launched in early 2005.
So much for the Economist's surmise that this is just some "Prestige Boondoggle by the Jungle Bunnies".

While the Politicians, Philosophers, Press and Pundits are playing paltry power-games, some of us Nerds are trying to do something concrete about a few of the world's problems. Though not all Politicians have recto-cranial inversion. Kudos to the UK Govt for financing this. Someone's got their priorities right.

You know in order to get this constellation up and running, there must have been intimate co–operation and trust between all parties. The Russian launch service providers. The Turks, Nigerians, Brits, and Chinese operators. Literally hundreds of people from very different walks–of–life, religions, ethnicities, cultures, all having to do their own bit 100% right, no less, in order to have a chance of success (Bad Luck can still cause failure, but Good Luck is not sufficient to succeed).

It was exactly the same with FedSat, a quite similar satellite. Everyone in Sweden (who provided the Star Camera), South Africa (who provided the Magnetometer Boom), Canada (who provided the Attitude Control System), NASA (who provided the GPS system), Japan (who provided the launcher), and all the Universities and Companies in Australia who did the rest had to work hand-in-glove, and did so. And let's not forget the Brits who did the basic design, or all the people at the European Space Agency who developed the telemetry and telecommunications protocols we used.

Maybe there's a lesson here somewhere...

To my British, Turkish, Nigerian and Chinese Brothers–in–Arms, Good Luck mates! May you too soon know the joy of being able to look up in the sky and know that you placed that star up there, and that it benefits in some small way all Humankind.

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