SumbandilaSat Launch via Submarine Scrubbed


South Africa’s SumbandilaSat, an 81-kg LEO (low-earth orbit) observation/imagery satellite, which was to launch via a Russian submarine in the Barents Sea, has been postponed. The story, via Engineering News (South Africa):

The launch of South Africa’s first government satellite from a Russian submarine next month has been postponed indefinitely, an official said on Tuesday.

"It has been postponed because official documentation still needs to be arranged to issue a decree for the launch," said Nhlanhla Nyide, spokesman for the Department of Science and Technology.

"They are currently working on the process … We will hear from them when they have set a new date for launch," Nyide said.

He told said no additional costs will be incurred and South Africa’s nascent space programme would not be affected because of the cancellation of the launch, which was to have taken place in the Barents Sea near Norway.

The R26-million satellite, intended to orbit some 500 km (310 miles) above earth and have a life-span of three years and longer, would carry high-resolution imaging cameras.

The images from the South African-built satellite would be used across a wide array of applications, from agriculture to land use and infrastructure mapping.

South Africa has pledged millions of rands to build its astronomy and space sector, with the construction of the South African Large Telescope creating a hub for astronomy research in southern Africa.

In July 2006 cabinet approved the establishment of a South African Space Agency as an institutional vehicle to look at space science and technology.



This would have been a cool launch. Back in December, 2006, the satellite was handed off to Russia:

South Africa’s low-earth-orbiting microsatellite, SumbandilaSat, left for Russia on Thursday, ahead of its launch into space off a submarine in early 2007.

The 81-kg SumbandilaSat will generate satellite imagery through its remote sensing camera at 6,25 m ground sampling distance.

Upon arrival in Russia, SumbandilaSat will be taken to the Russian naval base at Murmansk, where the Russian navy will integrate it with a launch rocket. The satellite will then be transported to a submarine at Severemorsk, just off the Russian coast, where it will be launched into space.

The launch window period is between April and May and is strongly dependent on weather conditions at the time. Once in orbit, SumbandilaSat will pass over South Africa mid-morning and mid-evening, at an average orbit altitude of 500 km.

In addition to its earth observation and communications payloads, SumbandilaSat carries five experimental payloads, which will present the scientific community with exciting results in low frequency radio waves, radiation, software defined radio, forced vibrating string and radio amateur transponders.

Speaking at the hand-over ceremony, in Stellenbosch, Science and Technology Minister Mosibudi Mangena said that the development of SumbandilaSat offered South Africa a number of competitive advantages and would support decision-making in natural resource management and sustainable development. He added that the images yielded by the satellite would be used in various applications, which had direct benefits to societies, such as flood and fire disaster management; enhancing food security through crop yield estimation; ensuring better human and animal health through enabling the prediction of the outbreaks of diseases; better monitoring of land cover and use; as well improved capabilities for water resource management.

The actual construction of the SumbandilaSat had been completed at the end of September and had been followed by a battery of trials, including functional testing, space environmental testing, vibration testing and burn-in testing, designed to establish the satellite’s readiness prior to a flight acceptance review.

“The environmental-testing phase determined SumbandilaSat’s ability to withstand extreme variance in temperatures, while the vibration tests verified its ability to endure the shocks it will undergo as it is launched into space. The burn-in testing phase comprised the actual and continual running of the satellite and its systems in order to confirm that all components are fully functional,” the Department of Science and Technology (DST) said.

Sunspace project manager for SumbandilaSat Harry van der Heyden said that the review presentation included an introduction to the hardware produced, as well as the ground support equipment developed for the satellite. “We also conducted demonstrations to illustrate how the satellite communicates with the ground support equipment.”

The birth of SumbandilaSat was initiated by the DST and was given life by numerous stakeholders, including the University of Stellenbosch, Sunspace, the South African Space Council, the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Trade & Industry, and Communications, as well as the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research.

The launch of SumbandilaSat is envisaged to strengthen South Africa’s technological capability and innovation in space science and technology, as well as reinforce the country’s role in national, regional and international space initiatives.

This is but one aspect of a budding interest in space, as evidenced by South Africa’s National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme. The first "space age school" was established in 2003.

Here’s a clip of U.S. Trident missiles being launched from a sub: