Nigeria and other African countries in space science technology cooperation with China

Nigeria and other African countries under the platform of the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) are deepening their cooperation with productive engagement that will benefit the country and the continent as China boosts science technology cooperation spatial. Reports by BINTA SHAMA.

China’s innovative development goes hand in hand with strengthening its space industry as well as building the capabilities of its allies.

While space activities are multifaceted and cover different sectors such as transport systems, infrastructure, communications, satellite navigation systems and planetary exploration, the construction of the Chinese space station, named Tiangong, or Heavenly Palace , frequently attracts international attention.

Taikonauts

China’s significant advances in this sector are making waves around the world. According to the records of the Chinese authorities, three crewed missions have already contributed to the construction of Tiangong. In June 2022, another crewed capsule went into orbit and docked there. It also completed the June 2021 and October 2021 arrivals. To represent mission members, China uses the lemma “taikonauts”, synonymous with astronauts, which is a combination of the Chinese term “taikong” (space) and from the Greek “nautes” (sailor).

A few days ago, the Chinese taikonauts would have started their work of establishing a habitable environment within the station by reconfiguring, among other things, the ventilation and the purification of the air. Meanwhile, a Long March carrier rocket, which will send the Wentian lab module to Tiangong, has been ferried to the launch pad in China’s southern island province of Hainan.

CASE

According to the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), this module has experiment cabinets and an installation platform for extravehicular payloads. He also has a mechanical hand that can be used alone or connected to the larger one belonging to the management and control center, Tianhe.

According to George Tzogopoulos, China’s autonomy has defined its impressive space program for years. However, of course, cooperation remains the goal. The white paper “China’s Space Program: A 2021 Perspective”, published last January, uses the word “cooperation” 46 times. It refers to the central role of the UN in the management of space affairs. It emphasizes the importance of the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO), an intergovernmental body headquartered in Beijing aimed at functioning as a cooperation mechanism for developing countries in the region, the G20 and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Sharing remote sensing satellite data

Moreover, the white paper gives weight to the synergies within the BRICS. Already in August 2021, under the Indian presidency, the heads of the BRICS space agencies had signed an agreement to cooperate in the sharing of remote sensing satellite data. A few months later, in May 2022, the countries of the group, currently chaired by China, went further and officially launched a joint committee on space cooperation. In the same vein, BRICS leaders issued a statement in June in which they reaffirmed their support for ensuring the long-term sustainability of space activities and preventing an arms race in space.

The FOCAC Dakar 2022-2024 action plan calls on both parties to strengthen cooperation on space technologies. In addition, China will promote the application of space technology and infrastructure development in Africa and use the space industry to boost social development and improve people’s living standards. A relevant sub-forum under FOCAC should also be created.

It is on this premise that Nigeria stands to gain from Chinese space science technology. The National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) is one of the research institutions established by the Nigerian government in May 1999 with an overall objective to pursue the development and application of space science and technology for the socio-economic advantages of Nigeria.

Nigerian space program

NASRDA Director General Dr. Halilu Shaba has been outspoken in Nigeria’s quest to liaise with willing partners to actualize all the benefits of the Nigerian space program for socio-economic development in Nigeria.

Dr. Shaba explained recently that the Agency is receptive to solution-oriented innovations with the economic strength and force required to ensure Nigeria’s pride among other nations in the space sector.

In 2003, Nigeria secured the launch of its first satellite, NigeriaSat-1, an Earth observation satellite that became part of the International Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC). Since then, Nigeria has launched a total of five satellites, three of which are still operational as of 2020. This includes the first satellite designed and built by engineers from African countries, NigeriaSat-X. There are, however, some technical shortcomings that Nigeria needs to address and this is where China can step in.

Emerging space programs

China is increasingly interested in investing in emerging space programs under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Considering satellites as infrastructure, China often invests in the satellite capabilities of BRI countries. In 2018, Nigeria agreed to give a $550 million stake in state-owned satellite operator NigComSat to a Chinese satellite company, China Great Wall, to manufacture two communications satellites to be launched by China two years later. the signing of the final agreement.

This cooperation is sure to build Nigeria’s capacity and enhance its technical skills. Nigeria, however, needs more investment of funds as the current budget arrangements of the space agency may not take it far to achieve its goals.

China National Space Administration

Moreover, young people are not forgotten. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) is, among other things, building a space science exchange platform, allowing students to explore new modes of educational communication and enrich their knowledge. CNSA also organizes online training courses in China, Egypt and Ethiopia. Young Nigerians can also benefit from exchange programs with China.

The bigger China grows, the bigger its international footprint becomes. Technological achievements – expanding with the exploration of the cosmos – result from China’s systematic planning and emphasis on research, science and hard work. China is naturally creating promising new conditions for the country’s future progress and its relations with the world.

On March 4, Zhang Bainan, deputy to the National People’s Congress and deputy chief designer of China’s manned space program, expressed optimism that in 2022, China will accomplish major tasks in six areas of the Tiangong space station, would launch the Wentian and Mengtian laboratory modules. and completely completing the space station, to achieve the station’s first combined flight with six spacecraft and two crews of six taikonauts in orbit at the same time.

In-orbit service

According to Zhou Jianping, the space station will form a T-shaped configuration and operate in orbit for a long time. The in-orbit service life of the suit is not less than 10 years and can be extended through maintenance.

Zhou said scientists from all over the world will be welcome to participate in science experiment projects on the Chinese space station. China has already promoted the implementation of the first technical experimentation projects with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, and has also entered into relevant cooperation agreements with several national or regional research institutes in space science and technology.

Nigeria must take advantage of these opportunities especially now that it maintains very solid diplomatic relations with the Asian giant.

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