Nigeria’s NigComSat1 Launches in China

 Nigeria’s NigComSat1 (which we reported on just a couple of weeks ago) lifted off successfully from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province just after midnight this morning. The Nigerian paper The Guardian had some of the most extensive coverage of the launch:

True to prediction, the much awaited launch of the Nigerian communication satellite, the first of its kind in Africa, took place and went on the 20 to 30 – minute trip into orbit where it is expected to provide robust and reliable satellite services to citizens in Africa and Europe.

The excitement at the site, according to Nigerian officials at the launch, was "electrifying."

Head of Corporate Affairs and Media at the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Mr. Felix Ale, told The Guardian on phone that the launch was successful.

He quoted the agency’s Director General Prof. Robert Ajayi Boroffice, as saying that the 30-minute movement of the satellite went on without delay.

According to Ale, "Prof. Boroffice has also called President Olusegun Obasanjo to inform him of the success of the launch. The President was impressed and full of praises for NASRDA.

NASRDA is, of course, Nigeria’s national space agency, who, incidentally, also has a pretty cool PowerPoint presentation available about NigComSat1 online.

In addition to be the first communications satellite launched on behalf of an African country, the launch of NigComSat1 also marks a significant first for China, as the first time a foreign buyer has purchased a Chinese satellite and its launching service. The Chinese news service, Xinhua, also points out that the launch represents the culmination and beginning of a relationship between Nigeria and China that will likely continue throughout the life-span of the satellite (about 15 years)…

The satellite will be monitored and tracked by a ground station to be built in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, by Chinese firm Great Wall Industry Corporation, and a ground station in Kashgar, in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The satellite’s ground facility in Abuja "had the potential of making Nigeria a major traffic hub in the west and central African region" and will prompt Nigeria and neighboring countries to "expand their switching facilities to be able to handle international traffic", according to a Nigerian communication official.

The Chinese company will offer support services and training for Nigerian technicians.

China was awarded the deal in 2004 after it outbid 21 international rivals to secure the 311 million U.S. dollar deal.

And also, may point to China’s expanding relationship with the developing world.

The satellite represents China’s wish to cooperate with developing countries in the peaceful use of outer space and to promote a closer relationship between China and African countries, observers say.

China has signed several cooperative contracts offering commercial launching services for foreign satellites, said an official on space development, citing a similar satellite contract with Venezuela in November 2005 and adding that China has been commissioned to send about 30 foreign satellites into space.

Want more info on NigComSat1? Check out the photo gallery over at Xinhua and the Google Map’s powered realtime tracking at