SA's second satellite delivers

Farzana Rasool
By Farzana Rasool, ITWeb IT in Government Editor.
Johannesburg, 24 Feb 2010

SA received the first live images from its second satellite, Sumbandila, this week.

SA's progression into space started over a decade ago and the country expects to make further strides in this area, says Lunga Ngqengelele, acting head of communications for the Department of Science and Technology (DST).

These images represent just the first development expected from the satellite, adds Ngqengelele.

He says the next step is to use the images to serve many functions in SA and help address certain needs.

“It can help the country in many ways. It can help SA in dealing with climate change, we can detect the movement of people in terms of informal settlements and then agriculturally can determine which land can still be used,” explains Ngqengelele.

The DST says the satellite can collect images during national emergencies, such as floods and fires, and can also map infrastructure and land use, and measure the water levels of dams.

“So the next step just depends on what we want to find out. Based on what the government wants, we will be able to get the images,” states Ngqengelele.

The DST says the satellite carries a secondary communication payload from the Department of Communications, in addition to the camera, since, according to Ngqengelele, government will also use the satellite for communications.

SA now also has the chance to provide images to other countries, just as it had once paid for satellite images that only other countries could provide. Ngqengelele says: “In the long run, we hope to assist other African countries with the satellite and we expect that they will get images from us. Basically, it's an investment for us and it is moving forward.”

Great success

World Wide Worx Strategy MD Steven Ambrose says: “The pictures are a reflection of South African technical prowess and perseverance despite all manner of obstacles in the realisation of the project. The high-resolution and the fact that these are being received by a South African organisation, from a largely South African satellite, is a great success.

“The main developments going forward will be in the science and research that the satellite facilitates or enables. It also provides impetus for further development in the education arena around space technology and imaging, which will be good for government and industry in SA,” says Ambrose, describing what else should be expected from Sumbandila.

He adds that the success in launching this satellite and now receiving pictures from it puts the country in the “space race” in a small way. It will allow for imaging of SA to a degree that wasn't possible before.