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‘Sumbandila mission is a success, despite premature loss’

South Africa: The South African National Space Agency (Sansa) announced that the country’s earth observation microsatellite, Sumbandila, is dead. Although the satellite operated for less than two years, instead of the two to three years Sansa hoped for, nevertheless the agency believes Sumbandila was a success.
Sansa CEO Dr Sandile Malinga said, “We collected about 1 000 images – cloud-free, usable images. We collected images of the floods in Namibia and of the aftermath of the tsunami in Japan. We used it to monitor fire scars in the Kruger National Park. We promoted capacity development. It was extensively used by radio amateurs. The total costs of the programme, including personnel, were less than ZAR 100 million (ZAR: South African Rand). Similar overseas programmes can cost ZAR 400 million.”
Sumbandila, designed and built by Stellenbosch-based company Sun Space & Information Systems and operated by Sansa (on behalf of the Department of Science and Technology), is believed to have been hit by a blast of solar radiation in July and has not downloaded any images, nor properly functioned, since then.
The satellite used modified commercial-off-the-shelf components, with no back-up systems. “It did well, but we need to move forward with systems that are more robust,” he said. “We need to create spacecraft with the necessary redundancy (back-up systems). Other satellites have back-up systems and radiation hardened materials. It will cost more. We’ll have to cooperate with other agencies which have technologies we do not have. We’ll need to buy some things. Strategic partnerships will be essential.”
For the future, Sansa is optimistic that funding for the country’s next satellite will be secured during the next financial year (starting April 1). This would allow preliminary work on the project to start later this year. The development of the new satellite should take four years.
Source: www.engineeringnews.co.za