South Africa’s Sumbandila Satellite finally blasted off into the earth’s orbit on Thursday evening.
The blast-off was accompanied by rousing applause and delight by keen South Africans who had traveled to Baikonur, Kazakhstan to witness the event. Among the guests were Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor.
She said the launch of Sumbandila which is Venda for “lead the way” has paved the way for bigger and better things.
“We look forward to implementing our space strategy so that we can join other nations in exploring the myriad possibilities presented by scientific and technological research,” she said.
The 81 kg microsatellite was launched from a Russian Soyuz rocket at exactly 5:55pm on Thursday after its take off was postponed on Tuesday due to technical glitches caused by bad weather.
The satellite is the country’s second satellite to blast off into space after Sunsat, the first satellite from Africa and the Southern Hemisphere blasted into space in 1999.
The launch of the satellite according to the department’s Director General, Dr Phil Mjwara, reinforces South Africa’s role in national, regional and international space initiatives.
“This is a momentous occasion, not just for the department and its partners and stakeholders, but also for the people of South Africa. This launch is a milestone in our efforts to develop and enhance space science and technology in our country,” said the Director General.
The satellite carries a high-resolution camera that will produce images for use in monitoring agriculture, mapping infrastructure and land use, tracking population movement, and measuring the water levels of dams.
Data will be streamed to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s Satellite Applications Centre (SAC) at Hartbeeshoek, near Pretoria, for analysis and policy development purposes.
The SAC will carry out command and communication functions by tracking the satellite using a large dish antenna.
Additional to the camera, the satellite carries a secondary communication payload from the Department of Communications and experimental payloads for the scientific community in the areas of low-frequency radio waves, radiation, software defined radio, forced vibrating string and radio amateur transponder.
It forms part of an integrated national space programme developed by government to provide the country with affordable access to space technology and data.