The Kondor radar surveillance satellite designed and built by Russian company NPO Mashinostroyenia (NPO Mash) and launched into orbit last June and which has been linked in South African media to the country’s Project Flute, reportedly started in 2006, to acquire such a satellite from Russia, actually belongs to the Russian armed forces and is the Kondor-1 version of the spacecraft Engineering News reports.
The launch of the first export version, the Kondor-E, for an undisclosed customer, is currently scheduled for February 27.
The existence of a South African project to develop a military – most probably a surveillance (or more popularly a spy) satellite – was reported by the publication in February 2008. The project was accidently revealed by the then head of Russia’s civilian space agency, Roscosmos, Anatoly Perminov, after it had been terminated by South Africa, in a manner or for reasons that caused significant offence to the Russian Ministry of Defence Keith Campbell, a senior contributing editor for the Creamer Media publication, wrote. In retaliation the Russian military refused to launch South Africa’s Sumbandila earth observation satellite.
“Unfortunately, the Russian Defence Ministry refused to launch this satellite, as the South African Defence Ministry for its turn refused to use our satellite,” he said. “The two countries’ defence ministries decided to go their own way, and we did not interfere in these affairs.”
SumbandilaSat was later launched by Roscosmos which is not part of the Ministry of Defence.
The issue of Project Flute was publicised at the weekend by official opposition DA shadow minister of defence and military veterans David Maynier. He issued a statement asserting Project Flute had cost the country R1 billion and called on government to account for this expenditure.
“The initial cost of Project Flute was R1,2-billion, but the final cost of the project is unknown,” he stated. A contract was signed with NPO Mash on May 19, 2006.
“The current status of the project is unknown. However it appears to be ongoing,” Maynier said.