Press statement by Minister Derek Hanekom

Press statement on the absorption of SunSpace's core capability

The Minister of Science and Technology, Mr Derek Hanekom, welcomed the decision by the majority of SunSpace's creditors to accept the Department's offer of R55 million for the institutions intellectual property and tangible assets.

This decision was recommended in a business rescue plan compiled by a practitioner appointed
by the SunSpace Board.

The offer was made on the basis of an independent evaluation of SunSpace's intellectual property and tangible assets.  The offer is in line with a Cabinet decision that the satellite manufacturing company be absorbed into the South African National Space Agency (SANSA). SANSA has entered into an agreement with Denel Dynamics to house the SunSpace capability.

As part of a process of absorbing SunSpace's capability within an appropriate entity, the company's employees have been offered employment in the new business unit, and most of them (more than 80%) have accepted the offer thus ensuring that key capabilities are retained.  In this way, South Africa will retain the critical home-grown capacity developed by SunSpace.

The Department anticipates that the absorption process will be completed by the end of this year.

The core capability of the satellite manufacturing unit will be used to develop and broaden a competitive satellite manufacturing industry in South Africa. The capability will be developed to serve the satellite development needs of the country and the rest of Africa, as well as other regions of the world.

Issued by the Department of Science and Technology.

Enquiries:

Tommy Makhode

082 379 8268

SANSA and ROSCOSMOS sign Radioastron agreement

The Minister of Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom, has welcomed the signing of an agreement between the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos).

The agreement, on the RadioAstron space satellite, was signed today (26 March 2013) in Durban, coinciding with Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to the country.

Dr Sandile Malinga, CEO of SANSA, said that the agreement paved the way for the two countries to work together on the development of science and space technologies.

In 2006 the South African and Russian governments signed an agreement to cooperate on the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes. 

Speaking in Durban, Minister Hanekom said: "This agreement not only confirms a strategic role we can play in the area of global space science and technology due to our geographic location in the Southern Hemisphere but also provides an opportunity to use space science and technology to contribute towards socio-economic development" 

About RadioAstron

The RadioAstron satellite was launched by Roscosmos on 18 July 2011.  It carries a radio telescope that will obtain images and coordinates of various radio-emitting objects.  The idea is to complement the capability of ground-based very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) instruments with a space-based VLBI instrument. 

The project is an international collaboration led by the Astro Space Centre of the Lebedev Physical Institute (Russian Academy of Sciences) in Moscow.  Other partners include the European Space Agency, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (USA), the Tata Institute for Fundamental Research (India), and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (Australia).

The RadioAstron mission will support and enhance investment in radio astronomy infrastructure in Africa, contributing to capacity building and socio-economic development on the continent.  RadioAstron will complement other radio astronomy facilities in Africa (like the Square Kilometre Array), enhancing the continent's reputation as a premier destination for radio astronomy.

Although the RadioAstron aerial is only 10 metres across, and is dwarfed by many ground-based radio telescopes, by combining signals with telescopes on the ground (through interferometry) RadioAstron is able to make observations with an unparalleled level of precision.  If considered as a single, virtual telescope, RadioAstron would be the world's largest radio telescope, with a "dish" measuring about 390 000 km (almost 30 times the Earth's diameter or about the same size as the distance between the Earth and the moon).

Telkom has made an 18-m C-Band antenna available for RadioAston tracking and acquisition in South Africa.

Under the agreement, Roscosmos will provide the hardware for upgrading the tracking station (antenna) for compatibility with RadioAstron, while SANSA will install and maintain the upgraded hardware and operate the tracking station.

 

Successful launch of Landsat 8

The long awaited Landsat 8 satellite was successfully launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, USA on Monday 11 February 2013 using the Atlas-V 401 rocket launch vehicle. Landsat 8 or the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) as it is currently known is a continuity mission in the series of Landsat satellites that was designed to succeed Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 missions.  The Landsat series of satellites have an unparalleled record of land imaging which dates back to 1972. Landsat's 40 year history is monitoring land, water and vegetation applications uniquely places the Landsat archive in a class of its own since it possesses an unrivalled continuous record of the earth's dynamics.

Landsat 8 is comprised of two instruments on-board the Operational Land Imager and the Thermal Infrared Sensor. The satellite possesses a panchromatic band with a spatial resolution of 15m, visible, near infrared and shortwave infrared bands with a spatial resolution of 30m and two thermal bands with a spatial resolution of 100m. Landsat 8 has a scene size of 185-km-cross-track-by-180-km-along-track. The Operational Land Imager has two new spectral bands, one designed to detect cirrus clouds and the second band designed for coastal zone measurements. The Thermal Infrared Sensor has two narrow spectral bands in the thermal region previously occupied by one wide spectral band on Landsat 4–7. The design specification for Landsat 8 will ensure a greater chance to acquire cloud-free scenes.

Landsat 8 was designed to serve a gamut of applications such as land use planning and monitoring, urban growth monitoring, disaster management, water resource monitoring, climate, carbon cycling and sequestration, ecosystems function and services, agricultural monitoring, hydrological cycle and other terrestrial processes. The South African community will also utilize Landsat 8 in resource management, geological mapping, vegetation studies, regional planning, mapping, and environmental change studies. Landsat 8 data will be freely available thanks to the United States Geological Surveys and NASA's free and open data policy. SANSA will be directly receiving Landsat 8 at its ground receiving station at Hartebeeshoek and will disseminate this data throughout the Southern African region.

Landsat 8 will widen SANSA's range of satellite products and will increase the scope for earth observation experts to develop operational remote sensing services of socio-economic benefit. LDCM (Landsat 8) will be declared for normal operation after successfully undergoing Post-Launch Assessment Review and the Operational Readiness Review.

 

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