Johannesburg - South Africa's Sumbandila Satellite is set to be launched into space from a Russian Soyuz rocket at Baikonur, Kazakhstan, later today.
South Africans will be able to witness the launch of the much-awaited R26 million satellite on the internet through live video streaming from Russia between 5pm and 6pm this evening.
Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor is expected to arrive in Kazakhstan to attend the launch event.
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.