More proof of South Africa’s ability and willingness to be a player in specifically the international space arena comes from Denel’s Overberg Test Range (OTR), with four specialists deployed in different parts of the world to support satellite launches.
Using locally designed and built mobile telemetry stations, the OTR teams were based in Northern French Guiana, South America and Invercargill, New Zealand.
In South America, Leon Korkie and Deon van der Hoven assembled the mobile telemetry station on site, integrated it with the French Space Agency telemetry kit and participated in qualification of the telemetry network before supporting the second launch of a VEGA launch vehicle (VVO2). OTR provided key coverage for the powered phase of the launch vehicle ascent from shortly after launch at the Guiana space Centre near Kourou until it disappeared over the northern horizon.
The second OTR mobile telemetry station was deployed and prepared by Herman Steenkamp and Nico du Plessis near Invercargill on New Zealand’s south island. After preparation, they returned to South Africa and manning of the station was entrusted to the pair who supported the VEGA launch. This time around they would support the fourth launch of the Automatic Transfer Vehicle (ATV4: Albert Einstein), also from Kourou in South America on an Ariane 5ES launch vehicle.
The more than 20 metric ton ATV4 was a record setting liftoff for Ariane Space. It successfully docked with the international space station on June 15.
“Apart from setting a record for Ariane Space, the launch was also a record for OTR. It was the first time two of our mobile telemetry stations successfully supported different missions on opposite sides of the world,” said Japie Venter, OTR project manager mobile telemetry stations.
OTR is part of the Denel Group, which earlier this month was given care of beleaguered local satellite company Sunspace. This follows the Department of Science and Technology’s R55 million offer to take over the company.
The State-owned defence industry conglomerate is set to take over the intellectual property and the bulk of Sunspace’s staff and operations are expected to continue at its Stellenbosch premises. Indications are a new business unit for Sunspace will be created as part of Denel Dynamics, the Denel Group’s tactical missile, precision-guided weapons and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) specialist.