South Africa starts work on EO-Sat 1

13 September 2013

Denel Spaceteq, the newly launched space engineering unit of South African aerospace and defence manufacturer Denel, has started the initial work on a multispectral, high-resolution earth observation satellite called EO-Sat1.

Denel Spaceteq general manager Berthold Alheit said last week that EO-Sat1 was scheduled to be in operation for the South African National Space Agency by 2017. The satellite will be used in the areas of food security, urban planning and development, safety and security, and disaster management support.

Denel group CEO Riaz Saloojee, announcing the launch of Denel Spaceteq on Friday, said that space had been identified as one of South Africa’s “five grand challenges”.

The Departments of Science and Technology and Trade and Industry have identified satellite production, in particular, as a high-technology manufacturing niche that South Africa should be pursuing.

Spaceteq’s launch follows the incorporation of SunSpace – the local company that built both of South Africa’s micro satellites, SunSat and Sumbandilasat – into Denel Dynamics in July.

“The high-end engineers and scientists absorbed by Denel from SunSpace brought with them capabilities of their own, including the SunSat and Sumbandilasat programmes,” Denel said in a statement on Friday. “EO-Sat1 will be based on the strong legacy inherited from the development of SumbandilaSat.”

First launched in 2009, SumbandilaSat was designed and built from scratch in one year, at low cost, by South African engineers, who also developed a world-class mission control system for the programme.

Before a blast of solar radiation put it out of commission by damaging its on-board computer in July 2011, SumbandilaSat delivered over 1 000 very usable, cloud-free images, and became well-known by the amateur radio satellite society worldwide for the excellent results from its amateur radio payload.

South Africa’s third satellite, EO-Sat1, will also be used for earth observation, in line with the country’s space strategy, which seeks to apply satellite data to help to improve livelihoods, reduce poverty and manage natural disasters in the country and the region.

“The benefit of a local space industry will be far-reaching,” Saloojee said on Friday. “South Africa’s access to, and control over, its own satellites will ensure advanced surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.”

At the same time, he said, retaining and developing technology and engineering skills within South Africa’s borders would help inspire young talent in the key fields of maths and science.

Spaceteq was officially inducted into the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) at the 64th International Astronautical Congress in Beijing, China on Monday.

“This formal induction and membership into the IAF will assist Spaceteq to successfully enter the space industry with greater insight and establish international networks,” Denel Dynamics CEO Tsepo Monaheng said in a statement.

SAinfo reporter