Pandor determined to launch Sumbandila Satellite

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pretoria - Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor is determined to see the launch of South Africa's second satellite into space later today.

"The minister was disappointed about the delay of yesterday's launch but she is excited and determined that it gets launched today," ministerial spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele told BuaNews.

The launch of the much-awaited R26 million Sumbandila Satellite in Kazakhstan was postponed on Tuesday evening following technical reasons as a result of bad weather.

The launch of the country's low-earth orbiting satellite has been postponed to 5.55pm on Wednesday evening, the same time it was expected to have blasted off into space on Tuesday.

The historic event will be broadcasted live at three viewing centres.

"This will be at the Science and Technology office in Pretoria, the Stellenbosch University as well as the University of KwaZulu-Natal," said the ministerial spokesperson.

The public can also view the launch on the internet through live video streaming from Russia.

Pandor, who is currently in Kazakhstan to witness the launch, is expected to fly back to South Africa on Friday morning.

The 81kg microsatellite, which is about 1m by 0.5m in size, will lift off into space from the Baikonur space base where it is being integrated into the Soyuz rocket.

The low-orbit satellite is the product of a three-year satellite development programme, commissioned by the Department of Science and Technology, and implemented by Stellenbosch University's engineering faculty.

It forms part of an integrated national space programme developed by government to provide the country with affordable access to space technology and data.

The satellite will orbit about 500 km to 600 km above the earth, carrying high resolution cameras to produce images of the earth.

The information will be streamed to the Satellite Applications Centre (SAC) at Hartbeeshoek, near Pretoria.

The data will be used in the management of natural disasters such as floods, fires and oil spills in southern Africa. It will also be able to measure temperatures at sea and land, clouds and rainfall, winds, sea levels, ice cover, vegetation cover and gases.

SumbandilaSat will be South Africa's second satellite, after the launch of SunSat 1, a modest satellite built by students and lecturers at Stellenbosch University in 1999.

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