South Africa prepares for second satellite launch in March

February 4th, 2009 - 11:52 am ICT by IANS  

Pretoria, Feb 4 (IANS) South Africa will launch its second satellite from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur space station March 25 to monitor disasters like floods, oil spills and wild fires in the country. The SumbandilaSat, an 80 kg low-orbit satellite, would rotate the earth at a distance of 500 km, the country’s science and technology department has said.

The satellite will collect data on land and sea temperatures, clouds, rainfall, winds, sea level, ice cover and vegetation cover, among others, BuaNews reported.

The project is part of a three-year initiative of the government’s integrated capacity building and satellite development programme announced in October 2005, the report said.

About 26 million South African rands (about $2.4 million) have been spent on the programme.

Science and Technology Minister Mosibudi Mangena said the satellite will help to understand the earth system to improve human health, protect environment and tackle disasters, among others.

He added that the space technology was an indispensable tool for development of South Africa and the continent.

The project was carried out in partnership with SunSpace and Information Systems, the Stellenbosch University and Satellite Application Centre (SAC). SunSpace was tasked with building the satellite, while SAC would control the operations involving telemetry, tracking, control and data capturing.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) will receive the image data, monitor and control the satellite. It will also protect the satellite and its various functions on the orbit.

The SumbandilaSat is the second satellite to be launched by South Africa. The first satellite SUNSAT 1 was launched about two years ago.

The satellite was named Sumbandila, meaning showing the way, following a national level survey at schools in 2006 to pick its name, the report said.

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