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South Africa welcomes space cooperation with Russia

7 September 2006: The agreement between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his South African counterpart Thabo Mbeki to cooperate for a space development program was hailed on September 6 as a step to give a vital momentum to the country’s space initiatives. Bart Cilliers, CEO of SunSpace and Information Systems, said, ” The agreement between the two countries will facilitate liaison for the launch of locally manufactured satellites.”

SunSpace is the South African manufacturer of satellite systems and an affiliate company to Stellenbosch University. The company develops and supplies micro-satellites for remote-sensing and telecommunications services. SunSpace has, among others, been commissioned to build Sumbandilasat, the satellite over which was part of the high-level discussions on September 5.

The South African government announced last October that 26 million rand was to be spent on the development of Sumbandilasat. Sumbandilasat is scheduled to be launched from a submarine near Murmansk. The collaboration with Russia will pay way for further dedicated satellite missions, said SunSpace Director, Prof. Sias Mostert, who coordinates the Sumbandilasat mission at Stellenbosch University.

The applications will make space projects attractive for potential clients. For instance, for the wine industry, the satellites will be able to monitor the status of vineyards and compare them with the state of competing countries.