South Africa, Algeria to sign satellite agreement

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Micro-satellite company SunSpace will sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Algerian Space Agency (ASAL) for the joint development of a high-resolution satellite system.

Responding to a parliamentary question, science and technology minister Naledi Pandor said ASAL expressed the intention of collaborating with SA on the design and manufacture of satellites in SA.
“The collaboration is premised on the notion of an African Resource Management Satellite Constellation (ARMS-C), for which SA and Algeria are yet to develop their satellite contribution.”

She added that the MOU with SunSpace is part of this. ASAL and SunSpace are the parties involved in the high-resolution satellite system.

The parties in the ARMS-C agreement will be the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) and ASAL. The date for the signing of this agreement is under discussion with ASAL, according to Pandor.

She said the agreement was not signed at the unveiling of SANSA, in December, because of protocol issues on the Algerian side.
“As ASAL represents the interest of the Algerian government, approval had to be obtained from Algeria’s national Cabinet. This approval was not given in time.”

The agreement will focus on developing technologies in the space field; developing space applications; coordinating joint research programmes; partnerships in the production of space systems and facilities; and developing human resources and know-how transfer.

A constellation of satellites similar to SumbandilaSat is being planned to increase the availability of satellite data for diverse applications.

The Department of Science and Technology says several African countries will participate in this joint venture and will eventually share in the data produced by the ARMS-C, especially for disaster monitoring applications.

Pandor says as one of the core objectives of the National Space Strategy, the department will expand its investment in “micro” satellites, building on the existing SumbandilaSat platform.

Cabinet this month approved a controversial government majority equity stake acquisition in SunSpace of between 55% and 60%.

SunSpace will lean on government to fill its order books, at an estimated cost of R100 million.

The company developed SA’s second national satellite, SumbandilaSat, which is providing geographical imaging for research purposes.

Democratic Alliance shadow minister of science and technology Marian Shinn says the official opposition party was told by SunSpace that it could not survive without a major investor assuring long-term financial stability, and had been unable to secure private industry funding.
“Without SunSpace, government would have to rely on manufacturers outside Africa, probably in the Northern Hemisphere.”



She adds that the company said potential satellite customers from the developing world and the Middle East were reluctant to sign deals with satellite manufacturers that did not have governments as major shareholders.
“We were told that once government’s stake in their firm was secure, the order books for satellites would start filling up and SunSpace would start to become profitable.”