Denel launches space engineering unit


Fuelled by South African rocket science and satellite technology Denel has launched Spaceteq as a newly-formed space engineering business unit.

This follows the incorporation of satellite manufacturer SunSpace into the Denel Group in July in a move which optimises the highly-advanced engineering and technology skills between the combined businesses.

Denel chief executive Riaz Saloojee said Spaceteq will strengthen the group’s position as a leader in innovative and advanced aerospace systems and technology.

Space has been identified as one of South Africa’s “five grand challenges.” The Departments of Science and Technology (DST) and Trade and Industry (dti) have identified satellite production as a high-technology manufacturing niche that South Africa should be pursuing.
“Denel Spaceteq is well positioned to play a central role in this national strategy,” he said.

The new company forms part of Denel Dynamics which has been exploring opportunities in satellite and space engineering in collaboration with the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) and the DST since 2011.

Berthold Alheit, general manager of Denel Spaceteq says its first project is to develop a multispectral, high-resolution, earth observation satellite called EO-Sat1 for operation by SANSA by 2017. This satellite will be used in the areas of food security, urban planning and development, safety and security and support for disaster management.

Denel Spaceteq will represent South Africa at the 64th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Beijing, China, next week. The annual IAC’s 2013 theme is: promoting space development for the benefit of mankind.
“While the space domain is a new frontier for the African continent and for Denel Spaceteq, the time is right to market South Africa’s strong engineering capability and our culture of co-operation internationally. Spaceteq’s capabilities can be applied to the advancement of solving difficult and large engineering problems in the space arena,” Alheit said.

Denel Dynamics attended its first IAC in Cape Town in 2011 after teaming up with the Aerospace Industry Support Initiative (AISI) supported by the dti and was involved in various space programmes until 1996. It has a latent space capability, including key staff working for Denel on various programmes, as well as the Houwteq satellite test facility near Grabouw.

The high-end engineers and scientists absorbed by Denel from SunSpace brought with them capabilities of their own including the SunSat and SumbandilaSat programmes. EO-Sat1 will be based on the strong legacy inherited from the development of SumbandilaSat.

The benefit of a local space industry will be far reaching Salojee believes. South Africa’s access to, and control over, its own satellites will ensure advanced surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. Retaining and developing technology and engineering skills in the country will have a much broader national technological benefit and inspire young talent in the much-needed fields of maths and science.