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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

NigcomSAT-1 returns to orbit in 2010

... As Nigeria, China finalize deal on satellite 2, 3

The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) and its Chinese counterpart have reached agreement on the replacement of the nation’s NigComSAT-1, which was de-orbited early last November, just as the tentative completion date for the replaced satellite to return to orbit has been scheduled for last quarter of 2010.

These indications were given, last weekend, by sources close to the presidency, even as another casualty was recorded in the global satellite industry by the European satellite operator, SES, which culminated in the shutting down of its ASTRA 5A, based on reported technicalities.

Unlike NigComSat-1, ASTRA 5A has a back-up satellite, which paved the way for its operators, SES to commence procedures for immediate return to orbit within the possible time.

Our sources also said that in order to guard against lack of back-up in the future, the Chinese authorities has reached another deal with Nigeria to split the NigComSAT-2 and 3 into phases.

This step is anticipated to cushion the effect of any eventuality as regards to the satellite failure in the future, with its attendant lose of clientele.

To prevent a recurrence, our source continued, China has decided on a phased out plan for the unleashing of NigComSat-2 and 3, which would be built into the new deal as part of strategies to avoid the dilemma faced by NigComSat-1 customers when the solar panel of Africa’s first communication satellite failed last quarter.

ITRealms Online also gathered that in the latest deal, NigComSat- 2 and NigComSat-3 will be launched into orbit six and 12 months after the replacement of NigComSat-1 by 2010.

“Between six and 12 months after the return of NigComSAT-1, the two phased out backups will be launched,” our source said.

It was further gathered that as replacement work has commenced, under-writers across the two countries, have been working on insurance claims of the satellite by China and Nigeria.

ITRealms Online recalls that NigcomSat-1 was built by the China Great Wall Industry Corporation at a cost of $250 million. It became the first African geosynchronous communications satellite when it was launched. It is operated by NigComSat Limited.

NigComSat-1 was insured by a consortium of international insurance firms, including SpaceCo of France, Munich Cray of Germany, and the People’s Insurance Company of China.

Equally, local insurance companies, banded together as co-insurers retained about 10 per cent of the risks shared, an equivalent percentage of the premium.

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