NigCom-Sat is Faulty, Not Missing, Says Federal Government

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Nothing seems to go right for Africa’s aspiring satellite players. First, there were problems with Rascom and now NigComSat has been “parked up due to loss of energy.”

Briefing State House Correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, in Abuja last week, the Minister of State for Science and Technology, Dr. Alhassan Zaku, said the satellite actually developed a technical fault that resulted in the inability of the operational batteries to be charged by the solar panels.

ThisDay reported that the N40 billion satellite had developed technical problems and gone missing from the orbit. Zaku said the fault was detected by the Nigerian and Chinese engineers stationed in Abuja and China at about 4.00 am on Tuesday. He said although the manufacturer was contacted immediately, repairs could not be carried, hence the decision to park it in order not to cause damage to other satellites.

The minister said if repairs could not be effected on the satellite, a new one would be built and launched, adding that the cost would be born by NigComSat's insurance company. Zaku assured customers of NigComSat that their loads would be migrated to another transponder at no extra cost.

According to him, "At about 4am yesterday (Tuesday), our engineers who are manning the ground station here in Abuja, noticed that the satellite in the orbit was not being recharged.

"Usually, this is suppose to happen via solar energy. Usually, when it is not being recharged, it losses energy very fast. So when they noticed, they quickly reported to the managing director. About the same time, the station in China, of course the satellite was built and launched in China, noticed and also called to communicate what they have noticed but assured that they were working to see what they could do. Immediately they summoned their engineers including the president of the company that built the satellite and they tried to see what they could do about the power being lost.

"When they found that it was becoming a bit difficult for them to manage, they contacted us to ask what they should do since it is our own. At around 9am, I met with the MD and we looked at the options and decided that the best thing to do was to park it like you park a car.

"Because if it is not parked there will be no energy left to move it but because there was still some energy left, we decided to move it aside and park it in a safe place. Because if it is not done, it will lose all the energy and become like a lose canon which will keep rolling about and hitting other satellites in orbit. And of course almost all satellites are carrying loads that are paid for and once you make that damage you are liable. So we decided that they should park it while repairs continue.

"However, we have also told them that in the event that it cannot be repaired, our insurance companies have to replace it. It is insured, so it will be replaced. Either they give us another one which is already in orbit or they built another one.

"Meanwhile, all the customers whose payload we are carrying have been assured that we will migrate whatever we are carrying for them - TV, radio - into another transponder so they need not fear at all. Of course they are not going to pay anything. The cost will be born by our own satellite because they paid for it and in fact the last amount they paid for it has not even be taken to the treasury, of course they pay in instalments quarterly. So the last money they paid has not even been banked yet. We are still trying to collect all, so we will just take that money and pay for another transponder for them to use now until ours is repaired or replaced."

This Day