Nigeria will launch its information and communication satellite, "NIGCOMSAT-1" in 2006.The communication satellite, when launched, would help to improve telecommunication services in the country.It would also address a broad array of communication needs in the areas of telephony, broadcasting, broadband and Internet services.The satellite would also have a subsidiary pay load for space-based augmentation systems for navigation and global positioning systems.

Nigeria is to launch its second satellite in 2007, Science and Technology Minister Turner Isoun said last week in Abuja. The satellite, christened "NigeriaSat-2"is coming after the pioneer "NigeriaSat-1" launched on Sept. 27, 2003 at Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia.

NigeriaSat-1, a medium resolution and disaster observing and monitoring spacecraft with a life expectancy of about five years, had capability to conduct agricultural monitoring, hydrological mapping and assess damage through hazard mapping."The NigeriaSat-2, a 2.5-metre high resolution satellite is presently at the design stage and is expected to be launched by the grace of God in 2007," Isoun said.

He said that the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) was working on the new satellite as part of African Resources and Environmental Management Constellation (AREMAC) satellite.The satellite, he said was being developed in the interest and in line with the objective of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) for the sustainable development of the continent.When launched, the minister said NigeriaSat-2 would also cater for the wider interests of geo-information stakeholders.It would serve as sources of geo-information data acquisition for both core and thematic data sets for the National Geospatial Data Infrastructure (NGDI) project.

The Director-General, National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Prof. Robert Boroffice, who confirmed the plan said the preliminary work on the satellite had started."We have already invited interested organisations for the design and manufacture of NIGCOMSAT-1 and we have appointed consultants for the project and for the frequency co-ordination of the satellite," Boroffice said yesterday.He disclosed that President Olusegun Obasanjo had mandated NASRDA to ensure that the satellite was launched in 2006 for sustainable growth and development of the country.The federal government had budgeted N3 billion for the communication satellite project.