[FPSPACE] South Africa: "New Space Agency To Consider Recreating Local Space Launch Capability"
James E Oberg
jameseoberg at comcast.net
Mon Dec 13 14:34:33 EST 2010
Any details on the old program and the possible new one from our SA subscribers?
"New Space Agency To Consider Recreating Local Space Launch Capability"
Johannesburg Engineering News Online // Dec 9, 2010 // Report by Keith Campbell:
The newly established South African National Space Agency is to study the re-establishment of a satellite launching capability in this country, Science/ Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said Thursday. This decision was made "in the light of the lessons learned with the delays experienced in the launch of SumbandilaSat," she stated. "As early as January, we plan to conduct consultative workshops with relevant stakeholders with the aim of developing this 20-year launch plan."
SumbandilaSat was originally meant to have been launched in 2007, from a Russian Navy submarine, on a converted Shtil sub-launched ballistic missile. As it involved the Russian Navy, this launch would have been under the aegis of the Russian Defence Ministry. However, the arrangement fell through, for reasons that have never been officially divulged.
Thereafter, Roscosmos, Russia's civilian space agency, stepped into the breach, and offered to launch Sumbandila on a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It was agreed by both sides that there was no need for a new launch contract, and the use of the Soyuz - a larger rocket that the Shtil - did not increase the cost to South Africa. However, delays in the preparation of the planned primary payload for that launch - a Russian Meteor M weather satellite - caused delays in the launch and SumbandilaSat did not get into space until September 2009.
In the late 1980s, as part of its nuclear weapons program, South Africa developed a medium range ballistic missile, which was adapted to become a satellite launch vehicle (SLV) when the nuclear weapons program was scrapped. However, this first South African space program was also scrapped and the rocket was never flown as an SLV. The only surviving example is today preserved, deactivated, in the South AF Museum at Air Force Base Swartkop, sw of Pretoria.
"We're really at the feasibility study stage," Pandor stressed. "It's really a 20-year plan." The process will include an examination of ground facilities left over from the previous space program, which exist "somewhat in mothballs", to determine what will be required to refurbish them.
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