Nigeria’s space programme has made further progress this month, as the NigeriaSat-2 and NX Earth observation satellites passed environmental tests.
Nigerian engineers work on NX (click to enlarge)
Environmental tests comprise a series of rigorous checks that are conducted to simulate the environment in which the spacecraft will operate in space. All spacecraft undergo these tests to validate the designs and to ensure quality control. It is a formal review milestone and a point at which SSTL engineers can identify potential issues for correction. The NX satellite has been integrated and tested by Nigerian engineers working at SSTL during the past 2 years as part of their training and development programme. This is the second such programme that SSTL has supplied to NASRDA. In 2003, NigeriaSat-1 was launched into the Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC) and remains operational. The launch of two further Nigerian satellites into the DMC will ensure continuity of the nation’s space assets as well as a significant advancement in capability through NigeriaSat-2’s high-resolution capability. Under the current contract with the National Space Research & Development Agency (NASRDA), SSTL is providing a high-resolution Earth observation satellite, NigeriaSat-2, based on the SSTL-300 platform "“ the first to be built by SSTL. NX is based on the SSTL-100 platform, which has gained flight heritage through existing satellites in the DMC. Under the supervision of SSTL engineers, NX was built by the Nigerian training engineers, who also took the satellite through its test programme. A Nigerian operations team will also be on hand throughout the launch and commissioning phase, learning the necessary skills to operate the new spacecraft..
Nigerian satellites during testing (click to enlarge)
The tests include thermal simulation, taking the spacecraft through the extreme ranges of temperature that they will experience in low earth orbit. These tests were conducted in the large space test chamber at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire. Each spacecraft was subjected to hot and cold cycles within a temperature range of +60dC to -20dC. Vacuum tests replicated the non-atmospheric environment in which the satellites will operate some 686km above the Earth. Thermal vacuum tests ran over a 5-day, 24-hour period with each subsystem tested individually within the extremes of environment. The two satellites were then taken to EADS Astrium’s Portsmouth facility for vibration tests that simulate the challenging conditions of launch. NigeriaSat-2 was then moved to the QinetiQ facilities in Chertsey where electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) tests were carried out to simulate interference and radiation effects that the satellite and subsystem electronics will face in orbit. This is an exciting time for the 25 Nigerian engineers who have spent varying periods of time at SSTL and the University of Surrey over the past 2 years, working and studying to achieve the skills that will underpin Nigeria’s ongoing space programme. Both NigeriaSat-2 and NX are now nearing completion with the Flight Readiness Review (FRR) this month. On September 22nd the training and development programme will reach completion and a new generation of highly skilled engineers will return to Nigeria to resume their work at the National Space Research & Development Agency (NASRDA) whilst they wait with anticipation for the launch of the two new satellites. Just over a month ago, on July 30, 2009 Visit NASRDA website marked its 10 years of existence as a National Space Research & Development Agency, with mandate for the implementation of the Nigeria National Space Policies and Programmes
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