PARIS — Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) will build an optical Earth observation satellite for the Nigerian government that the small-satellite specialist says will demonstrate the growing capabilities and potential of small satellites. The Nigeriasat-2 satellite, contracted by Nigeria’s National Space Research and Development Agency, is scheduled for launch in 2009, SSTL announced Nov. 6.

Nigeriasat-2 is expected to weigh about 300 kilograms at launch and to carry two imagers. One has a 2.5-meter ground resolution in black-and-white mode and a 5-meter resolution in four-color mode and a swath width of 20 kilometers.

The second imager, to be used for wide-area coverage, will have a 32-meter ground resolution and a swath width of 300 kilometers. The launch is scheduled for 2009 aboard a vehicle that SSTL and the Nigerian government will select jointly, but which is not part of the satellite-procurement contract.

Phil Davies, SSTL senior account manager, said Nov. 6 that the contract demonstrates the expanding possibilities of small, relatively inexpensive satellites. He declined to disclose financial terms of the deal.

Davies said Nigeriasat-2 has better performance than similar-sized spacecraft ordered by the Algerian government from Astrium of France, a contract that SSTL also tried to win.

Among the features of Nigeriasat-2 will be a solid-state data recorder with a 16-gigabyte memory. The satellite will be able to download stored images at rates of up to 210 megabits per second, Davies said.

Michel Bouffard, director of Earth observation and science at Astrium, said Nov. 8 that comparing Nigeriasat-2 and the two Algerian satellites, called Alsat-2, is not straightforward. The Alsat-2 satellites, to be launched in 2009, also have a 2.5-meter ground resolution in black-and-white mode. In four-color mode, the resolution is 10 meters. The images will have a swath width of 17 kilometers. The satellites have a single imager each, unlike Nigeriasat-2’s two-payload configuration. At 130 kilograms, the Alsat-2 spacecraft also weigh less than Nigeriasat-2.

Bouffard said the Alsat-2 spacecraft will each have solid-state recorders with a capacity of 64 gigabytes — higher than Nigeriasat-2. Downlink speeds will be 70 megabits per second, not as fast as Nigeriasat-2.

SSTL said Nigeriasat-2 will deliver 100 to 400 images per day and is designed to operate for seven years from a 700-kilometer polar orbit. The Nigeriasat-2 deal follows a contract between SSTL and Nigeria’s National Space Research Development Agency for Nigeriasat-1, which was launched in 2003. That satellite is now part of the SSTL-coordinated Disaster Monitoring Constellation, in which several nations share capacity from SSTL-built satellites.

The Nigeriasat-2 contract was not competitively bid but was managed on a sole-source basis. It includes SSTL’s Know-How Transfer and Training program, also a feature of Nigeriasat-1.

For Nigeriasat-2, SSTL will host 25 Nigerian engineers at its Guildford, England, headquarters and production site to witness the satellite’s construction and to build their own training model of the satellite. “The training model will include all the platform systems and a medium-resolution imaging payload,” said John Buckley of SSTL’s business development and sales division.

Nigeria expects to launch its first national telecommunications satellite in 2007. C alled Nigcomsat-2, that satellite is being built by the China Academy of Space Technology.

Robert Boroffice, director of Nigeria’s space agency, said in a Nov. 6 statement that Nigeria’s government views space technology as “a cost-effective means of addressing many of the issues facing African nations, such as mapping, water-resource management … health hazard monitoring and disaster mitigation and management.”