South Africa’s R26-million Sumbandilasat microsatellite is in its correct orbit and is performing as expected.
“Sumbandilasat is in its correct spin, its solar panels are facing the sun, and its batteries are now fully charged,” SunSpace & Information Systems executive director business development Ron Olivier, the Engineering News reports.
“Its systems are being checked, before the main computer is switched on.”
The Engineering News adds the satellite that overflies SA four times each day is currently being controlled from the Electronic Systems Laboratory ground-station at the University of Stellenbosch.
Once fully operational, command of the satellite will be transferred to a mission control centre at the Satellite Applications Centre (SAC) at Hartbeeshoek, west of Pretoria.
Sumbandilasat was launched last Thursday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan by Russian space agency Roscosmos on a Soyuz-2 rocket.
“The launch was fantastic,” enthuses Olivier, who was present. “It was most amazing. The ground was shaking. The air was roaring. Windows rattled. And we were a kilometre away. We were in Baikonur, where the space age started.” he adds.
“Standing where Yuri Gagarin stood. Where Sputnik had been launched. And then you see your own satellite on a Soyuz rocket. It was the most amazing experience!”
The 1m x 0.5m satellite is the result of a three-year integrated capacity and satellite development programme commissioned by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in 2005 and carried out by SunSpace and the Stellenbosch University’s engineering faculty.
The DST notes this is the same organisation that developed SunSat which was launched in 1999. SunSat was SA`s first locally-built satellite and was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in the United States.
Pandor`s department says that among the many benefits Sumbandilasat will offer SA once operational are information that will assist in the effective management of disasters (floods and fires), food security (crop yield estimation), health (prediction of outbreaks), safety and security, water resources and energy security.
“The satellite will orbit about 500 km to 600 km above the earth. Carrying high resolution cameras, it will produce images to be used for agriculture, mapping of infrastructure and land use, population measurement and the monitoring of dam levels.