The imminent launch of SumbandilaSAT

A South African micro-satellite by the name of SumbandilaSat was supposed to have been launched yesterday (Tuesday):

“At exactly 17:55 today [Tuesday], South Africa’s SumbandilaSat will launch into space atop a Russian Soyuz rocket in Baikonur in Kazakhstan. The 81 kg microsatellite will orbit about 500 km to 600 km above the earth, gathering data that will be very useful in addressing the country’s socio-economic needs.” (DST website)

SumbandilaSat is a South African low-orbit micro earth observation satellite; its name, which means “lead the way” (or ‘Pathfinder’), comes from the Venda language.

The satellite had been designed and built by the engineering faculty at Stellenbosch University in conjunction with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Sun Space and Information Systems (SunSpace) over the last three or four years. The work formed part of the integrated South African space programme, run by the Department of Science and Technology’s (DST).

From its Low Earth Orbit (LEO), about 500 to 600 km above the earth, SumbandilaSat will take high resolution images of the earth’s surface, in order to provide:

“information that will assist in the effective management of disasters (floods and fires), food security (crop yield estimation), health (prediction of outbreaks), safety and security, water resources and energy security. …

Carrying a high resolution camera, it will produce images to be used for agriculture, mapping of infrastructure and land use, population measurement and the monitoring of dam levels, among other things, and stream this information to the Satellite Applications Centre (SAC) at Hartbeeshoek, near Pretoria.” (Countdown to launch of South Africa’s satellite begins)

The CSIR’s Satellite Applications Centre at Hartebeesthoek, about 70 km west of Pretoria will be the main operations facility for SumbandilaSat. This Centre is located in a world heritage site known as the Cradle of Mankind or Maropeng), which is in a remote area of the Magaliesberg mountains.

The Centre provides

“tracking, telemetry and command (TT&C) services for geo-synchronous and polar orbiting spacecraft to the manufacturers, operators and users of satellites and launch vehicles. It is also ideally situated for satellite data acquisition and as such, delivers earth observation data relayed from satellites to a range of stakeholders.” (CSIR Satellite Applications Centre)

The Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, is currently at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in order to see the launch first-hand.

The satellite is one of six micro-satellites that are piggy-backing on a Russian Soyuz rocket. The main payload of the rocket is a Russian Meteor M weather satellite; this is equipped with the latest technology, which has necessitated additional testing.

The launch has been delayed numerous times already (Sumbandilasat launch delayed – again). Yesterday, the decision was made to postpone the launch by 24 hours until today (Wednesday) at 17h55 South African time because of bad weather and telemetry glitches.

Hopefully, this will be the last delay.


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One thought on “The imminent launch of SumbandilaSAT

  1. Pingback: SumbandilaSat has been launched! « Grains of Sand

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