CSTD’s Breakthrough in Satellite Tech, Others as Nigeria, Africa’s Gateway to Development

In this report, Osamwonyi Omozuwa, argues that with the visionary leadership drive of Dr. Abubakar Umar Sadiq, as CEO of CSTD, coupled with availability of funds and an operating clean room for testing research, NASRDA’s Centre for Satellite Technology Development (CSTD) is on the trajectory to becoming Nigeria, Africa’s powerhouse required for the development of the continent…Excerpts:

In furtherance of the mission of the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), the Centre for Satellite Technology Development (CSTD) seeks to be a leading centre of excellence in satellite technology development in Africa.

Since its inception in 2001, CSTD has recorded many laudable successes in the field of satellite technology. Some of the successes include the fabrication and launch of four satellites, thereby enabling Nigeria to harness satellite-derived data for disaster management, precision farming, telemedicine, town planning, weather forecasting, navigation, environmental monitoring and improved national security.    

The Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CSTD, Engr. (Dr) Abubakar Sadiq Umar, is repositioning CSTD as an engine of national development. Under his visionary leadership, CSTD is making the numerous benefits of satellite technology more accessible to Nigerians.

The Centre has prioritised community outreach, a strategic intervention aimed at addressing existential challenges at the grassroots level. The initiative also seeks to stimulate the academic interest of the girl child in satellite systems.  

A key focus of the Director of CSTD is incentivising research activities that accelerate sustainable national development. Hence, some of the trending catchwords among management and staff of CSTD are: “Research is the oxygen of innovation”; “no research, no development”; “research is the future.”

Indeed, Nigeria cannot be at the vanguard of satellite technology development in Africa and beyond, if CSTD does not encourage innovative research activities. To deepen its culture of research and innovation, CSTD keeps forming strategic partnerships with some universities and research institutions.

Under the future-oriented leadership of Dr. Umar, CSTD has done so well in developing human capacity for national transformation, despite paucity of funds. The Centre periodically organises in-house training aimed at enhancing indigenous competencies in various aspects of satellite engineering. As a result, Nigeria now has advanced expertise in designing, assembling, integrating and testing satellites.

Many public and private institutions can gain invaluable lessons from CSTD’s in-house model of human capacity development, which is cost-effective, highly impactful, and transgenerational. It is transgenerational in the sense that the first elite corps of space engineers and scientists that participated in the Know How Technology Transfer (KHTT) at Surrey Satellite Technology Limited, (SSTL), and the China Great Wall Industries Corporation (CGWIC) are the trainers of younger space engineers and scientists. 

CSTD’s extant model of human capacity development has enormous economic benefits to Nigeria. It has reduced the amount of foreign exchange spent to acquire satellite-related knowledge in advanced nations.

Nigerians do not need to travel abroad to acquire essential knowledge about designing, developing, and operating satellite systems. This is because, beyond CSTD’s regular in-house training, some of its engineers and scientists are visiting lecturers at various universities, particularly at the Institute of Space Science and Engineering (ISSE), Abuja.  

Given the above, the Director of CSTD is optimistic that in the next 10 years, Nigeria will have excess human capacity, and perhaps infrastructural capabilities for the development of satellites locally.

This optimistic vision can become a reality considering the laudable achievements of CSTD’s engineers and scientists who participated in the development, launch and operation of Nigeriasat-1, NigeriaSat-2, NigeriaSat-X, and NigcomSat-1.

Furthermore, CSTD’s engineers and scientists solely designed, integrated and tested NigeriaSat-X while using the facility of SSTL. However, for these highly motivated and innovative engineers and scientists to replicate that technoscientific marvel in Nigeria, they would need a functional clean room. 

Without a clean room, the operations and research activities of CSTD cannot transcend the realm of abstract theory and become tangible products. Clean rooms are sophisticated designed environments that reduce the presence of contaminants, dust, bacteria, and other particles that can have negative impacts on the efficient performance, durability and reliability of satellites.

These controlled environments are important because of the extreme complexity and sensitivity of the various electronic systems of satellites. They are so sensitive that a very tiny particle of dust, hair, or any contaminants can disrupt their operations, which could lead to mission failure. 

CSTD needs a clean room for testing and quality control of electronic components and sensitive mechanical parts of satellites. It is also needed to ensure regulatory compliance. Satellites, which are used as training models may not go through a clean room. However, no satellite can be launched into orbit without meeting certain regulatory standards, which require testing. 

Developing a clean room is capital-intensive. It requires adequate funding. How to enhance the budget of CSTD so that it can design, integrate and test satellites in Nigeria is one of the concerns of Dr. Sadiq.

However, being an incurable optimist, he believes the challenge is surmountable. Hence, he seizes every opportunity he has to educate policymakers, lawmakers and economic planners on the centrality of satellite technology development to Nigeria’s aspiration to become a knowledge economy. His commitment to engaging all stakeholders in the satellite sector for Nigeria’s sustainable development is salutary. 

Many industry watchers are confident that CSTD will overcome the hurdle of poor funding. For nothing is impossible anywhere there is visionary leadership. History teaches that stakeholders can transcend the most formidable barriers when they are inspired by the belief and behaviour of leaders. Dr. Umar’s leadership philosophy that entails transparency, accountability, inclusivity and a certain can-do buoyance of faith has renewed the interest of many professionals in satellite technology for inclusive economic prosperity and national security.

Dr. Omozuwa, is a former head of the media department of CSTD, writes from Abuja.

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