More setbacks for South Africa’s satellite Sumbandilasat


South Africa's satellite, Sumbandilasat, will only be launched after August, following another rescheduling by Russian launch partner, Roskosmos.

While the Department of Science and Technology (DST) had secured a general date, the launch of the satellite will now be subject to another delay. According to Russian space agency, Roskosmos, the launch of its Meteor M meteorological satellite has been delayed and this has affected the Sumbandilasat lift off. No final dates for lift off have been set.

The Meteor M is the primary payload on the Soyuz launch vehicle, while Sumbandilasat is the secondary payload. Time needed to prepare and integrate the satellite on to the carrier vehicle will cause further delays, Roskosmos said.

The low-orbit satellite, which is the second to be launched by South Africa, is scheduled to be blasted into space in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The satellite has been shipped to Russia in preparation for its launch. Sumbandilasat was exported to Russia on 4 June and arrived in Moscow on 10 June. It was then shipped to Baikonur on 17 June for integration onto the Soyuz launch vehicle, as scheduled.

The launch will be the culmination of the DST's three-year, R26 million integrated capacity building and satellite development project. In October 2005, then minister of science and technology Mosibudi Mangena announced the project, and the satellite was delivered to the DST in November 2006.

The Sumbandilasat blast off was supposed to have taken place in December 2006, from a submarine near the northern Russian naval base of Murmansk - but efforts to kick-start the space project were delayed. The launch date was then set for June 2007, but was once again delayed, with the department citing “administrative problems”.

Roskosmos previously stated delays were due to the “rescheduling of programmed launches”. The Russian space agency has failed to launch the satellite twice this year already.