The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has allocated R232-million in funding for the development of the new ZA-ARMC1 satellite this year, Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom has indicated.
“This satellite will greatly enhance Africa's ability to monitor and manage its precious natural resources. The process of transferring the capabilities and intellectual property of SunSpace [South Africa's specialist microsatellite and related systems manufacturing company] into an ongoing satellite programme is continuing, through the services of a business rescue plan,” he said in his 2013/14 Budget Vote on Thursday.
In December, the South African National Space Agency (Sansa) announced that it had started the development of the ZA-ARMC1 satellite, which would be the first South African satellite in the planned African Resources and Environmental Management Constellation agreement that was signed by South Africa, Algeria, Kenya and Nigeria in 2009.
Sansa hoped to use the new satellite project to consolidate the South African space industry.
Further, Hanekom said nearly R2-billion had been set aside for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope project over the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework period and that the investment would leverage significant international resources.
The design and preconstruction phase of the SKA project, which would be the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the world, would start this year.
In addition, the construction of the 64-dish MeerKAT radio telescope, which would be the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, had started, and would be completed by 2016.
Meanwhile, the Minister stated that the DST, in partnership with the Department of Energy and the International Energy Agency, would finalise the Solar Energy Technology Road Map (SETRM) this year.
The SETRM would provide a guide for the local development of solar energy technologies and their deployment, taking into consideration relevant policies and initiatives.
Hanekom noted that, although South Africa held significant solar and wind energy resources, the value of these still needed to be unlocked through more efficient and affordable energy-storage technologies.
“Our main focus at this stage is on battery technologies. Some of the novel battery systems we are developing are based on manganese and, given that South Africa has 80% of the world's manganese reserves, this represents another significant beneficiation opportunity,” he indicated.
The government had allocated R6.2-billion to the DST for the 2013/14 financial year.
Further, to implement some of the recommendations made in a report last by the Ministerial Review Committee, which was appointed by former Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor, on the National System of Innovation, the department had secured R500-million from the Economic Competitiveness Fund to strengthen research and innovation partnerships within industry.
An international expert committee had also been appointed to develop a governance, a management and an operational framework for a national integrated cyber infrastructure system.