The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has reported that South Africa is considering constructing a 250 kg to 400 kg Earth observation satellite, as the country’s contribution to the proposed African Resource and Environmental Management satellite constellation (ARMC). This was revealed on Monday in a written answer to a Parliamentary question.
“This would entail a satellite development programme of four and [a] half years, building on the experience of the subsystems developed for the Sumbandilasat mission,” stated the DST in its answer. “The full programme costs for such a satellite would be R450-million and will be sourced from the national fiscus.”
“Government, through the DST and its agency, the South African National Space Agency (Sansa), will take the lead in managing South Africa’s interest in the ARMC,” affirmed the DST. The proposed new satellite would operate from a low Earth orbit and would have a planned lifespan of seven years.
The ARMC project was launched, on paper, in 2009 with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Algeria, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. It is hoped that the ARMC will be composed of at least three low Earth orbit imaging satellites.
“Apart from the development of a world-class satellite, the other main benefit of the ARMC will be the supply of high resolution image data regularly enough for African remote sensing scientists to extract more temporal facts about environmental changes on the African continent and thereby lay the basis for indigenous African environmental, climate change and disaster monitoring and management systems,” explained the DST. “The satellite is expected to serve the environmental decision making needs of the South African government.”
Sansa’s first Earth observation satellite, Sumbandila (also referred to as Sumbandilasat), designed and built in South Africa, failed last year. This means that the country currently has no operational Earth observation satellite.
Algeria currently operates Alsat-2, designed and built in Europe, while Nigeria has the NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X Earth observation satellites in operation. Although both Nigerian satellites were designed and built in the UK, NigeriaSat-X was actually assembled by Nigerian engineers and technicians. Algeria and Nigeria are already members of the international Disaster Management Constellation (DMC). The other members of the DMC are China, Spain, Turkey and the UK.