Pretoria, South Africa— The date for the launch of the much-anticipated SumbandilaSat science satellite has been set for 25 March by the Department of Science and Technology. The Sumbandila, a low-orbit satellite which will collect data to be used to monitor and manage disasters such as floods, oil spills and fires within Southern Africa, will be launched into space from a sub-marine in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
In October 2005, the Minister of Science and Technology, Mosibudi Mangena, announced that South Africa would be embarking on a 3-year, R26 million integrated capacity building and satellite development project. Mr Mangena said at the time that the 80kg low earth orbit satellite would rotate the earth at a 500km height and provide the country with affordable access to space technology and data. It will be able to measure temperatures at sea and land, clouds and rainfall, winds, sea level, ice cover, vegetation cover and gases.
The project was carried out in partnership with SunSpace and Information Systems, the University of Stellenbosch and the Satellite Application Centre. The university was responsible for managing the project as well as training the students, while SunSpace was tasked with building the satellite.
The Satellite Application Centre will be responsible for operations, telemetry, tracking, control as well as data capturing. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) will be responsible for its mission control. It will receive the image data from satellite and will be tasked with the monitoring and controlling of the satellite, include maintaining the satellite and programming it to perform its various functions on orbit.
The SumbandilaSat is the second satellite to be launched by government after the launch of the SUNSAT 1, a modest satellite built by students and lecturers at Stellenbosch University in 1999.
Like SUNSAT, the Sumbandila project presented several educational opportunities for pupils at school-level and post graduate students at the Limpopo, Venda, North West, Kwazulu-Natal and Stellenbosch universities. Its construction was completed at Stellenbosch University and was handed over to the department in November 2006.
Meaning ‘showing the way’ in Tshivenda, the name Sumbandila was chosen via a national competition for high school pupils in 2006. A panel of judges sifted through more than 3000 entries looking for a name that would identify the satellite as a South African project as well as contribute to the branding of the satellite as a major South African space technology achievement.
The three winners, who all came up with “Sumbandila”, were from Laerskool Rachel de Beer, Pretoria; Isilimela Comprehensive High School, Cape Town; and Brettonwood High School, Durban.