SumbandilaSat enhances South Africa's tech status


The satellite carries a high-resolution camera that will produce images for use in monitoring agriculture, mapping infrastructure and land use, tracking population movement and measuring the water levels of dams. This is expected to boost economic performance, which has taken a hit from the vagaries of nature, especially in the agricultural sector.

Data will be streamed to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research's Satellite Applications Centre (SAC) at Hartbeeshoek, near Pretoria, for analysis and policy development purposes. The SAC will carry out command and communication functions by tracking the satellite using a large dish antenna.

The satellite also carries a secondary communication payload from the Department of Communications as well as experimental payloads for the scientific community in areas including low-frequency radio waves and radiation.

SumbandilaSat cost the government 26 million South African rand (US$3.35 million) and is expected to perform better than NIGICOMSAT, which was launched by the Nigerian government and has had to undergo repairs. Another satellite, RASCOMSTAR, was launched in 2007 by a conglomerate of 56 African countries but had a helium leak shortly after launch, and only two transponders were left working.