Start-up BEE consortium Mihle has taken a 26% stake in Sumbandila`s manufacturer.Mihle, a new black economic empowerment consortium, led by former Telkom director Themba Vilakazi, has acquired a 26% stake in SunSpace and Information Systems for an undisclosed amount.
SunSpace is part-owned by the University of Stellenbosch and is a provider of high-performance small and medium-sized satellites and related systems and solutions to the international aerospace market.
It is involved in the ZA-002 or Sumbandila satellite project. Sumbandile is to be launched from a Russian nuclear submarine, near the North Pole, around Easter.
Vilakazi says the transaction will position Mihle “as a key player in the South African space industry”.
The consortium consists of a number of telecoms, IT and financial interests, as well as black engineers employed at SunSpace. The companies involved are TelAfrika, COM Space (the engineers), Umnombo Investments Holdings and Mazolo Investments.
“We bought into SunSpace because it is a well-established company, enjoying international recognition as an innovative builder of small and medium satellites. It provides us with a perfect platform to achieve our business goals. These goals include using the consortium`s diverse experience and expertise to grow our business,” Vilakazi added in a statement.
“Together with SunSpace, we will cooperate closely with government to drive the national space strategy. We will also look to cooperate with other companies to tap into the growing space opportunities in SA and abroad,” he said.
Vilakazi, also chairman of SRM Holdings, served on the Telkom board from 2002 to 2005. The SunSpace acquisition is Mihle`s first business foray.
National Aerospace Centre of Excellence director Francois Denner says government has a clear interest in space, and sees satellite technology as a means of bridging the urban-rural divide and addressing infrastructure problems in remote areas.
However, he says, government must still clearly indicate what its strategic goals are in this area.
“These capabilities can only be developed over the long-term and industry needs to know what government intends so it can position itself accordingly,” he says. “It is already clear from Sumbandila that an earth observation capability will be critical for sustainable development and better resource management.”