South Africa's satellite 'leads the way'

South Africa's micro-satellite, SumbandilaSat, is living up to its Venda name as it "leads the way" in providing free, frequent high-resolution images capable of revolutionising local earth observation in various fields.

During August and September, SumbandilaSat produced five high-resolution images of the south-western part of the Kruger National Park and neighbouring Bushbuckridge, where the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and SA National Parks (SANParks) are conducting various research projects.

These images would have cost over R40.000 each from a commercially operated satellite, but SumbandilaSat is able to deliver such images, each covering an area of 50 by 60 kilometres, to local projects at no cost.

So far, the satellite has delivered 800 images of targets worldwide, of which approximately 54% have been cloud-free – translating to four images on average per day. Three to five images of southern African targets can be captured per week.
Setback, solution

Earlier in the mission, a setback was experienced with the performance of the altitude stabilisation system on the satellite.

A design team from satellite builders SunSpace were able to rectify the problem, however, by means of a unique manoeuvre that involved guiding the satellite to tumble "head-over-heels" in order to scan an image from south to north while orbiting from north to south.

The provision of free, frequent high-resolution satellite images of specific areas of interest has the potential to revolutionise local earth observation capabilities in many fields, with natural disasters (like fires and floods) and human activities (like mining, settlements, forestry) being accurately monitored on a regular basis.