South African satellite set for launch

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Johannesburg - In less than a week, South Africa's R26-million SumbandilaSat will be launched into space, as the secondary payload on a Russian Soyuz rocket in Kazakhstan.

The much-awaited launch, which is scheduled to take place on 15 September, will be witnessed by Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor, who will travel to Kazakhstan, the Department of Science and Technology confirmed this week.

The 80-kilogramme satellite has a primary payload consisting of a remote sensing camera and a secondary payload consisting of a fixed vibration string experiment, reports

Orbiting at a height of 500km, SumbandilaSat will collect data for use in the management of natural disasters like 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.

In June, the department space science general manager, Valanathan Munsami, said SumbandilaSat is a developmental satellite designed and built in South Africa to showcase local capabilities, and as such is much cheaper than most commercial satellites.

The project was carried out in partnership with SunSpace and Information Systems, the University of Stellenbosch, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research's Satellite Application Centre at Hartebeesthoek, north-west of Johannesburg.

The university was responsible for managing the project as well as training the students, while SunSpace was tasked with building the satellite.

Munsami said the Stellenbosch University would be responsible for the satellite during the commissioning and stabilisation phase immediately after separation, while the Satellite Application Centre would be responsible for operations, telemetry, tracking, control as well as data capturing thereafter.

The Satellite Application Centre will receive image data from SumbandilaSat and will monitor and control the satellite, maintain it and programme it to perform its various functions.

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.