The launch of
Engineering News this morning reported SumbandilaSat is to be launched as a secondary payload on a Russian Soyuz launch vehicle, and this latest delay is reportedly because the primary payload for the launch, a Russian Meteor M weather satellite, will not be ready until then.
The new date is on or around August 20.
The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has confirmed the delay. "The delay is with the Russians and not with us. The date for the launch depends on what other launches have been scheduled and that is what causes the delay," says DST spokesman Nhlanhla Nyide says.
This is the umpteenth delay since the original launch date that was set for December 2006. That date slipped to June 2007 and more recently to March 25 this year, and afterwards to May 6 - 10.
The DST have averred "administrative problems" for the delay, but the Mail & Guardian newspaper and Engineering News last year reported that the original delays were the fall-out of former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota cancelling a R1-billion military spy satellite on order from Russia.
Engineering News adds the microsatellite is currently still in
This permit is expected to be issued by the end of June and SumbandilaSat will probably be shipped to
Sumbandilasat was designed and built by specialist South African microsatellite company SunSpace and Information Systems (SunSpace), which is based in Stellenbosch in the
The 80kg microsatellite was originally to have been launched from a Delta IV class nuclear ballistic missile submarine using a R29RM Shtil submarine-launched missile, the demilitarized version of the SS-N-8 Sawfly.
SunSpace export manager Ron Olivier says Sumbandilasat cost R11 million to build, compared to the R8 million spent on its predecessor, Sunsat (Stellenbosch University Satellite), but was thrice as good.
"[The satellite's earth observation camera] has three times better ground resolution and, instead of a gravity gradient boom, which is not very stable, we can now, with three-axis stabilisation, keep it stable enough to achieve the 6.25m ground sampling distance objectives we set ourselves."
Olivier explained to ITWeb in 2007 this meant one pixel = 6.25 sq metres. Images taken by Sumbandilasat will be downloaded by CSIR engineers at its Satellite Application Centre, at Hartebeeshoek, near
The satellite will also carry a number of experiments and an amateur radio payload. The CSIR will be responsible for the satellite's day-to-day operations, as well as telemetry, tracking, control and data capturing.
Olivier says Sumbandilasat was built under a R26 million contract, which includes launch and shipping costs, as well as funding used by
Sunsat, or ZA-001, also built by SunSpace, was launched in February 1999 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, in
Once launched, SunSpace will be responsible for commissioning Sumbandilasat and for providing technical support during its planned three- to four-year lifespan.
"We expect her to last five years-plus, however," Olivier said. Commissioning entails remotely switching the satellite on and "detumbling" it, as it will be "spinning at one heck of a rate", Olivier added.
The satellite in 2006 successfully completed a series of performance tests at the Institute for Satellite and Software Applications, at Grabouw, near
The facility, now in the hands of the Department of Communications, was in the 1980s known as Houwteq, part of apartheid SA's space programme, which was central to a broader scheme to build a ballistic missile, tipped with a nuclear weapon.
"A lot of SA technology is riding on this satellite. We have tested it and every indication is that once it is up there it will work," Olivier said.
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