8 March 2011
The Cabinet has approved a deal for the government to acquire a majority equity share in SunSpace – the local company that has built both of South Africa’s micro satellites – in a bid to retain and improve the country’s space capabilities.
The decision to acquire a stake of between 55 and 60% of the company had been approved in principle back in February 2010, and has now been approved.
Cabinet spokesperson Jimmy Manyi said in Pretoria this week that the funding to keep SunSpace intact will be made available through the usual budget processes of the government.
Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor is expected to outline the details in the near future.
Sunspace is a private company that was set up as a spin-off of the satellite development research programme at the University of Stellenbosch. It is a provider of high-performance small- and medium-sized satellites and related systems and solutions to the local and international aerospace market.
It has undertaken a number of space programmes, including the design, development and manufacturing of the Sumbandila Satellite that was launched into space last year.
The R26-million SumbandilaSat was launched in Kazakhstan in September. The low-orbit satellite was commissioned by the Department of Science and Technology and implemented by Stellenbosch University’s engineering faculty.
It formed part of an integrated national space programme developed by government to provide the country with affordable access to space technology and data.
The satellite was expected to orbit about 500km to 600km above the earth, carrying high resolution cameras to produce images of the earth. The data was to be used in the management of natural disasters such as floods, fires and oil spills in southern Africa.
It will also be able to measure temperatures at sea and land, clouds and rainfall, winds, sea levels, ice cover, vegetation cover and gases.