Is this viral photo an attempt to launch a rocket into space in Nigeria?By Olugbenga ADANIKIN on November 17, 2020
A photo shared thousands of times on Twitter and in multiple WhatsApp groups, claiming to be an attempt to launch a rocket in Nigeria is misleading.
“Made in US” and “Made in Nigeria” says a November 14, 2020 tweet that shared the photo in comparison with another photo showing a US Falcon 9 rocket hoisted into vertical launch position.
The tweet has been liked more than 5800 times and retweeted more than 1400 times.
The same user also shared the photo edited to add the caption “150 billion naira was the budget for the successful launching of Nigeria rocket at the Centre for Space Transport and Propulsion…”
Similarly, the photo was shared in a WhatsApp group, this time around in comparison with another rocket in a vertical position. The rocket is branded with the Ethiopian flag. The accompanying caption reads “Nigerian space rocket vs Ethiopian space ?. May God not shame us o…”
This photo has led to several conversation with a number of such conversations tilting towards Nigeria not being at par with other countries despite huge investment made in the sector.
The photo shows a rocket ready for launch into space in Nigeria.
Checks by The FactCheckHub shows that the claim is misleading.
NASRDA confirms photograph
The spokesman for the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) in Nigeria, Dr. Felix Ale, confirmed the picture to The FactCheckHub.
The NASRDA is the Federal Government agency responsible for developing, designing and building right hardware and software in space technology.
Dr. Ale said the officials captured in the photograph were staff of the agency trained by NASA, European Space Agency and the China National Space Administration (CNSA).
He explained that the activity being carried out was to test their capacities ahead of when the country will launch its satellite.
He described the picture as a ‘classified photograph’ that should not be in the public domain.
“It is part of our roadmap to have our launch site where we can launch our satellites in Nigeria. As a result of that, we have CSTP (Centre for Space Transport and Propulsion) located at EPE. It is in preparation for our programme until when we have the capacity,” Ale told this reporter.
“That is the centre we will use the moment we are ready to launch our satellite,” Ale added referring to CSTP.
How did ‘classified photograph’ become public?
Through the Google image verifying tool, The FactCheckHub was able to trace the photo to an official government website – Centre for Space Transport and Propulsion (CSTP).
It however, provided no detail aside from ““Rocket Launch.”’ and “Contents coming soon.”
The CSTP was established in 2003 as one of the ‘six activity centres’ of NASRDA.
The photo shows several individuals some of whom wore safety kits with CSTP inscription.
The photograph was uploaded on February 1, 2020, with an original dimension of 1700 by 2560 and 96 dpi (Dots Per Inch) before it was altered and shared on social media.
The website link also serves as a subdomain of the NASRDA.
Is this an Ethiopian rocket?
This photo which was shared in a WhatsApp group with the caption “Nigerian space rocket vs Ethiopian space ?. May God not shame us o…” has been manipulated to add the Ethiopian flag.
The photo is of Long March 5 being transported to a launch site. It was photographed by 篁竹水声 (Huáng zhú shuǐ shēng – google transcription) in 2017.
Long March 5 is a Chinese heavy-lift launch vehicle developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT).
It belongs to the Long March rockets family operated by the China National Space Administration (CNSA).
Based on the above findings, the viral picture was shot in Nigeria but the context in which it was shared is MISLEADING.
The government officials were not launching a rocket into the space but were conducting a mock launch test.