NIGCOMSAT-1R Opens a New Era of Satellite Navigation Performance Augmentation in Africa

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NIGCOMSAT-1R Satellite, managed and operated by Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT) under the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy has opened a new era of satellite navigation performance augmentation in Africa and Indian Ocean region.

NIGCOMSAT, in conjunction with the Agency for Air Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA) has started to broadcast a Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) signal over Africa and Indian Ocean (AFI) region, providing the first SBAS open service in this part of the world.

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The early open service is provided as part of ‘SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean’ programme which pursues the autonomous provision over the continent of SBAS services, to augment the performances of the satellite navigation constellations GPS and Galileo.

The signal is broadcasted via SBAS payload on NigComSat 1R GEO satellite of the Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited and an uplink station deployed in Abuja.

It’s compliant to the Standards and Recommended Practices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, and the Minimum Operational Performance Standard developed by the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) organisation.

It would be visible in the whole Africa and Indian Ocean, up to the West Australian coast, and also in Europe.

“We are proud to be part of this ambitious programme to provide satellite navigation services in the Africa and Indian Ocean region.

“The use of our geostationary communication satellite NIGCOMSAT-1R navigation payload to broadcast the first signal will be Africa’s premier contribution to SBAS as a regional satellite-based augmentation system for the continent,” said the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, NIGCOMSAT Limited, Abimbola Alale.

With improved accuracy to within a meter, and boosted integrity, availability and continuity of safety-related applications, SBAS services would improve flight safety and efficiency in Africa, and also benefit the economy in many areas as land, sea and rail transport, as well as mass market applications, supporting user safety, cost-effectiveness and sustainable development.

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The launched open service essentially aims to carry-out technical trials, and to undertake with partner airlines field demonstrations for aircraft and rotorcraft, to demonstrate the benefits of the future operational safety-of-life SBAS services, expected from 2024.

It would also include early Precise Point Positioning (PPP) and emergency warning service to populations, whose performance would be proven through other demonstrations.

The signal-in-space is generated by a dedicated system tested, developed as part of the “SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean” preliminary design phase, financed by the European Union and awarded to Thales Alenia Space, Joint Venture between Thales (67 per cent) and Leonardo (33 per cent).

“SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean” is based on the European EGNOS developed by the European Space Agency (ESA), acting under delegation of the European Commission and operated by the European GNSS Agency GSA.

The system prototype uses as reference stations network the SAGAIE network deployed by CNES and ASECNA with the support of Thales Alenia Space.

Speaking on the project, Vice President of the Navigation Business at Thales Alenia Space in France, Benoit Broudy, said: “Our longstanding expertise acquired with the development of EGNOS1 SBAS in Europe and KASS SBAS in Korea combined with our new leading-edge satellite positioning technologies makes Thales Alenia Space the ideal partner to best support countries to implement their own SBAS efficiently.

“The equatorial region represents also a key engineering challenge for such a system due to difficult ionosphere conditions, for which Thales Alenia Space has developed a proven solution.”

In his remarks, ASECNA Director General, Mohamed Moussa, added: “The provision of the first African SBAS early service is a crucial major step forward in the development of satellite navigation in the AFI Region, and in the deployment of the ‘SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean’ system, the navigation solution for Africa by Africa.

“It demonstrates the ambition and commitment of ASECNA to enhance air navigation safety for the benefit of the whole continent, in line with my vision for the unification of the African Sky.”

NIGCOMSAT is a company and agency under the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy whose mission is to be the leading satellite operator and service provider in Africa.

NIGCOMSAT Limited owns and operates the Nigerian Communications Satellite. The company provides innovative and cutting-edge satellite communications solutions by operating and managing a geostationary communication satellite-NigComSat–1R, built to provide domestic and international satellite services via a two-way satellite communications services across West, Central, South East Africa, Europe and Asia.

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The satellite is a hybrid Communication Satellite with a payload for navigation overlay services (NOS) system similar to EGNOS.

ASECNA is an International public organisation. Its main mission is to provide air navigation services within an airspace of 16,500,000 square kilometers, divided into six flight information regions (F.I.R) as defined by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

ASECNA also develops solutions for airport management, aviation infrastructure studies and construction, equipment maintenance, calibration of air navigation instruments and training for civil aviation staff. Its 18 Member States are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, France, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Chad and Togo.

Thales Alenia Space has over 40 years of experience and a unique combination of skills, expertise and cultures. It delivers cost-effective solutions for telecommunications, navigation, earth observation, environmental management, exploration, science and orbital infrastructures.

Idowu Sowunmi