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[ABUJA] Nigeria successfully launched NigeriaSat-X, the first satellite to be designed and built by Africans, into orbit this week (17 August).

NigeriaSat-X was launched along with another small satellite, NigeriaSat-2, from Yasny in southern Russia.

The satellite is the result of a transfer training agreement between Nigeria's National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, a satellite developer based in the United Kingdom. It brought 26 young scientists from NASRDA to work on the satellite for 18 months, under the supervision of experts in Surrey.

NigeriaSat-X will be used for resource management, and for mapping of the country that will feed into food security through crop monitoring, urban planning and disaster management. It will also facilitate the development of Nigeria's space capability and engineering skills for new technologies.

In a national broadcast, President Goodluck Jonathan praised "the resourceful Nigerians who made this history possible".

Jonathan, a scientist by training, said: "Today marks another milestone in our nation's effort to solve national problems through space technologies."

Nigeria's national space policy was approved in 2001 and culminated in the launch of the country's first satellite, NigeriaSat-1, in 2003.

Its 25-year space mission roadmap, approved by the government in 2006, aims to produce a Nigerian astronaut by 2015; launch a satellite built in Nigeria between 2018 and 2030; and be part of the moon mission by 2030.

Oye Ibidapo-Obe, president of the Nigerian Academy of Science, told SciDev.Net: "This is a remarkable feat that puts our nation in the well-deserved rank of scientifically capable countries. It is a glorious day for our country."

But he added that the country now needs to develop capacity to build satellites locally.

Seidu Mohammed, director-general of NASRDA, said: "This [achievement] showcases the importance of capacity building as it is vigorously being pursued by NASRDA. In light of this, having the required environment, our engineers and scientists can handle any design with little or no supervision."

Ajayi Boroffice, founding director-general of NASRDA, said: "Capacity building is central to the implementation of Nigeria's space programme.

"Africa's scientists and engineers need to rise up to the challenge of developing and applying invaluable space technology to tackle [their] countries' problems."