A lot of celebration and accolades greeted the news that the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) participated in the launch of a cubesat. It is an arguable fact that Nigeria has the biggest satellite industry on the continent of Africa, with her launching of about five satellites – NigeriaSat-1, NigComSat -1((Nigeria’s second satellite and Africa’s first communication satellite),NigeriaSat-2 , NigeriaSat-X, NigComSat-1-R.
Hence for a lot of Space enthusiasts, it was a welcome development that young minds especially from the University environment were participating in such a laudable project. For most people, they just heard that FUTA launched a satellite, without knowing the extent of involvement of the University, National Space Research and Development Agency (NASDRA) and even the participating students.
To get to the root of the matter, Zumalo had a chat with the Director of the Centre for Space Research and Applications (CESRA-FUTA), Professor Joseph Akinyede and the regional coordinator (Africa), Space Generation Advisory council (SGAC), Oniosun Isaiah Temidayo.
Professor Akinyede explains that the project was a product of a research agreement with the KyushiI Institute of Technology (KYUTECH) through collaboration with the Centre for Space Research and Applications and the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA).
According to him, the agreement led to FUTA representing Nigeria in a 5- Nation Nano- satellite constellation involving Japan, Ghana, Nigeria, Mongolia and Bangledesh. The project which got highlighted with its success in 2017 started in 2015.The director of CESRA-FUTA reveals that on Team Nigeria, we had Tejumola Taiwo (The project Manager from NASRDA), Ibukun Adebolu (Mechanical Engineering, FUTA) and Ummunna Reuben Jikeme (NASRDA).
The cubesat named NigeriaEduSat-1 was launched into space aboard a space X falcon 9 Aircraft in May, 2017 and is meant to do the following:
1. Take photograph of homelands (Participating countries)
2. Satellite broadcast of songs to ham radios (So if you have a ham radio, you may be lucky to be tuned in when any of the Cubesats makes its way across the Nigerian orbit.)
3. Networking among the various ground stations ( One would be sited in FUTA)
4. Determination of satellite precise location without GPS.
In our chat with Professor Akinyede, the important and major message we gathered was that the development is an important step in engaging more youthful minds in the development of the Nigerian space industry.
For the regional coordinator, SGAC (Africa), Oniosun argues that there is need for increased participation of relevant stakeholders in encouraging the next generation to embrace space technology and its attendant benefits through relevant investments.
According to him, FUTA, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) and the Obafemi Awolowo Univesity, Ile- Ife (OAU) are the few notable schools with an appreciable level of space education facilities.
“Few Universities really offer space related technology), so when Nigerians go out of the country to study and learn, few of them come back to participate in the Nigerian industry”- Temidayo Oniosun Isaiah
Oniosun who emerged one of the 14 Global winners of the 2016 International Astronomical Federation (IAF) Emerging Space Leaders Grant (instituted by the International Astronomical Federation, Paris, France) emphasised that more young people need to be involved in the policy making and setting the agenda in the use of satellite technology in the country.
To bridge this gap, he formed the space club in FUTA (Which according to him is the biggest in Africa) that has gone ahead to organise the Yuri Night (A world space party), participated in the Global space balloon challenge (GSBC) – the club launched a 600 gram balloon, which flowed into the atmosphere at an ascent rate of 300 metre per minute (The balloon travelled a distance of 32km into space and other space technology projects) and has engaged in different space related projects.
And to further put Nigeria and Akure on the map of space achievements, Oniosun says the City is set to host the first African regional space generation workshop. The workshop will have delegates from around the world deliberate on key issues affecting the growth of the industry on the continent.
The 1st AF-SGW which will hold on 16-17 November 2017 in Akure with the theme: Space: The Driver of the desired Future in Africa will be hosted by the Centre for Space Research and Applications, Federal University of Technology, Akure.Oniosun is of the opinion that with more and more young Nigerians getting involved with conversations involving space technology on the global scene, the future is bright for the local scene.
In May 2016, Nigeria through the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu announced plans to have a man in space (An astronaut) by2030; Prof. Akinyede and Oniosun expressed doubts about the timeline but are confident that if the country continues to invest in the industry and support our best hands; everything is possible.
With more tertiary institutions developing capacity to participate in ground breaking and globally relevant innovations /Technology…there is a chance we can accelerate the pace of a technologically driven socio-economic development.