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Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  07 Sep 2009

TECHNOLOGY: Matie Satellite Launched


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Only 12 days are left before South Africa's SumbandilaSat launches into space atop a Russian Soyuz rocket at Baikonur in Kazakhstan.

The 81 kg microsatellite, which is about 1m x 0,5 m in size, will lift off into space on 15 September 2009 from the Baikonur space base where it is being integrated into the Soyuz rocket.

The R26 million low-orbit microsatellite is the result of a three-year integrated capacity and satellite development programme commissioned by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in 2005, and carried out by Stellenbosch University's engineering faculty.

This is the same organisation that developed, SunSat, which was launched in 1999.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, will travel to Kazakhstan to witness the launch.

Among the many benefits SumbandilaSat will offer South Africa are information that will assist in the effective management of disasters (floods and fires), food security (crop yield estimation), health (prediction of outbreaks), safety and security, water resources and energy security.

The satellite will orbit about 500 km to 600 km above the earth. Carrying high resolution cameras, it will produce images to be used for agriculture, mapping of infrastructure and land use, population measurement and the monitoring of dam levels, among other things, and stream this information to the Satellite Applications Centre (SAC) at Hartbeeshoek, near Pretoria.

The SAC will carry out the command and communications functions by tracking the satellite using a large dish antenna.

Despite previous cancellations of the launch date, project manager at the
DST Humbulani Mudau said that stakeholders were confident that technical aspects were under control and all protocols were now in place to allow for the successful launch of SumbandilaSat as planned.

"We need to remember that there are a number of technical nuances involved in launching a satellite of this nature into orbit, and stakeholders need to make it a priority that all possible challenges are addressed before attempting to launch. Previous challenges specific to SumbandilaSat included difficulty in receiving a Russian government decree for the launch, the rescheduling of a manned mission, and the unreadiness of the primary payload, the Meteor M.

"However, we are confident that we are now ready to go, and we have been assured by our Russian counterparts that all we are now waiting for is the official countdown to take off," said Mudau.

The launch of SumbandilaSat is set to strengthen South Africa's technological and innovation capability in space science and technology, as well as reinforce the country's role in national, regional and international space initiatives.

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