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Nigeria to launch second satellite project in 2006

The world’s latest entrant into the space race, Nigeria, hopes to launch a second satellite in 2006, officials of its National Space Research Development Agency told recently. Nigeria scientists launched their first satellite, which was designed for use in gathering geographical and other scientific data, on a Russian rocket last September.

Officials say Nigeria has spent 10.5 billion naira (US$78 million / 61 million euros) over four years to develop its space programme, a vast sum in a poor country where three in four people live on less than a dollar a day. But despite criticism from some quarters that the project is a white elephant, officials said their next plan is for a communications satellite.

“The federal executive council has approved the project to be launched in 2006. Proposals for the second satellite project are coming in from space experts across the world,” an agency director, who asked not to be named, said.

NASRDA boss Robert Boroffice said the need for a second satellite project arose because of tremendous growth in demand for satellite access since the introduction of VSAT communications technology in the country a few years ago.

“For now there are no fewer than 5,000 VSATs installed in Nigeria,” he said, according to a copy of a speech forwarded to AFP.

“Companies, government and individuals have come to realise that by taking advantage of satellite communication, it is possible to bypass the poor state of the telecommunications infrastructure in Nigeria,” he said.