Sumbandila Satellite launch postponed

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pretoria - The launch of the much-awaited R26 million Sumbandila Satellite has been postponed.

According to the Department of Science and Technology, the country's low-earth orbiting satellite, had been postponed by 24 hours.

The launch was expected to take place in Kazakhstan on Tuesday evening, and would now occur on Wednesday at 5:55pm due to a technical error.

According to Science and Technology Deputy Minister, Derek Hanekom, strong winds could have made it impossible to launch.

The deputy minister said the latest development was disappointing, but added that South Africa should be proud of its science and technology achievements.

He also added that this did not reflect badly on South Africa's capability. "We are confident that it will happen soon."

Asked about why the satellite could not be launched in South Africa, he said thou the country had a launching pad it was not ideal for the launch of the satellite, adding that only ten countries in the world had launching capabilities.

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.