SA, Russia to meet next month to finalise Sumbandila satellite launch

26th May 2008 By: Christy van der Merwe

South Africa and Russia were finalising the details for the launch of the multi-billion rand Sumbandila science satellite later this year, the Department of Foreign Affairs said at the weekend.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the two countries have agreed to meet before the end of June to "thrash out details" of the launch of the South African satellite.

The Minister was speaking at the South Africa-Russia intergovernmental committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation in Moscow, which was attended by high-level Russian delegates, as well as South African Minerals and Energy DG Sandile Nogxina, and representatives from Eskom, Umthobo Resources, Diamond Trader, Mintek, PetroSA, Pelawan and Sekoko Mining.

Discussion topics included talks on trade and investment, minerals and energy, transport, agriculture, water resources and forestry, science and technology, and education.

The Sumbandila science satellite is part of three-year integrated national space programme developed by the Department of Science and Technology in 2006.

The project is carried out in conjunction with the University of Stellenbosch, Sunspace and Information Systems, and the Satellite Application Centre.

The Sumbandila programme aims to provide South Africa affordable access to space technology as well as useful data. It will demonstrate that high resolution remote sensing could be done with a satellite as small as this - a mass of some 80 kg, about 1,8 m long and rotating about 500 km from the earth.

Sumbandila was envisaged to serve as a research tool to support, amongst other things, the monitoring and management of disasters like the extent of floods, oil spills and fires. Satellite data through the Internet already plays a vital role in agriculture and water resource management, particularly in South Africa's arid conditions. Satellites were also monitoring almost all aspects of the world's climate system. This includes measuring the temperature of the sea and land, clouds and rainfall, winds, sea level, ice cover, vegetation cover and gases.