At the conclusion of the fourth India Brazil South Africa Dialogue Forum (Ibsa) summit in Brasília on Thursday, the leaders of the three countries – South African President Jacob Zuma, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – announced that they had agreed to set up a trilateral satellite programme.
The programme will involve two satellites, one for Earth observation and the other for space weather and climate studies. As yet, no budget for the programme has been released.
The space weather satellite will be the first to be built and is planned to be ready for launch two years from now.
It looks as if South Africa will provide the satellite bus for this spacecraft. The bus is the term given to the basic spacecraft – that is, the structure and the control, navigation, communications and power systems – on which the actual observation imagers and systems, experiments, transponders, etc. (depending on the type of satellite) are mounted. But most of the instruments to be mounted on the bus will be provided by Brazil.
The Earth observation satellite should follow two years after the space weather satellite – in other words, four years from now – and is likely – although this is not yet confirmed – to carry South Africa’s MSMI imager, developed by Stellenbosch-based Sun Space & Information Systems (SunSpace) in cooperation with the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.
Both satellites will be launched by India, the only one of the Ibsa countries to have the capability to launch satellites at the moment.
Speaking on behalf of the three leaders, President Lula da Silva remarked that “they [the satellites] will benefit the Ibsa countries and other friendly countries, providing more effect in matters of agriculture, transport and telecommunications. It is a project symbolic of the new stage in our partnership."
President Zuma enthused that "South Africa is especially excited with the Ibsa satellite proposal. We see this initiative as an opportunity to reinforce our shared development objectives. A joint satellite could lend support to areas like agriculture, education, energy and health information and communications".