South Africa’s fledgling satellite and space programme is expected to go forward at a faster space with Denel Dynamics now aboard as the official “carer” of embattled SunSpace.
This follows a Cabinet decision that the Stellenbosch-based satellite manufacturing company be absorbed into the SA National Space Agency (SANSA). The Department of Science and Technology (DST) indicated the space agency would fall under the “care” of the State-owned defence industry conglomerate Denel, specifically its missiles and UAV division, Denel Dynamics based in Irene, Centurion.
Welcoming what will be a new business unit within Denel Dynamics, Denel chief executive Riaz Salojee said Denel had been involved in South African space programmes until 1996.
“Denel has a latent space capability including key staff still working for Denel on a number of current programmes as well as the Houwteq satellite test facility near Grabouw.
“This opportunity will allow Denel to optimise the synergy between SunSpace’s capabilities and the latent capability in Denel for the broader national technological benefit.
“This will see Denel ensuring South Africa not only retains the critical home-grown capacity developed by Sunspace but also strengthens and grows this base utilising the Denel Dynamics engineering skills development programme,” he said.
Salojee stressed Denel was not buying a new business.
“We will be executing contracts from SANSA in a domain the Denel Group is familiar with. These will be undertaken using people who previously worked for Sunspace and who will soon be employed by Denel.
“While the DST is buying the tangible and intangible assets of the defunct SunSpace on behalf of SANSA, SANSA will in turn contract Denel to execute future contracts, using the tangible and intangible assets now owned by SANSA.
“In addition, Denel will take on most of the staff, who all happen to be high-end engineers and scientists. This is an exciting development not only for Denel but for the country,” Salojee added.
The execution of contracts will be a collaborative effort between Denel Dynamics as main contractor to SANSA and the CSIR, universities, various high-technology industries in South Africa and the DST.
“The collaboration represents a collective ‘RSA Incorporated’ approach under the leadership of Denel to develop and broaden a competitive satellite manufacturing industry in South Africa,” the Denel number one said.
The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has said the core capability of Sunspace’s manufacturing unit will be used to develop and broaden a competitive satellite manufacturing industry in SA.
“The capability will be developed to serve the satellite development needs of the country and the rest of Africa, as well as other regions of the world,” the department said in a statement. Its announcement follows most shareholders accepting the department’s R55 million offer to take over the unit, being placed under Denel’s care.
Sunspace is involved in low-earth orbit satellite development, design, building, integration, testing and commissioning. However, it is undercapitalised and was unable to pay creditors. Without government support, Sunspace could not grow.