After numerous delays, South Africa has successfully launched its low-orbiting satellie, SumbandilaSat, into space.
The 81kg microsatellite blasted into space at exactly 17:55 (South African time) yesterday from Baikonour in Kazakhstan, aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket.
Naledi Pandor, the Minister of Science & Technology, was in Kazakhstan to witness the historic occasion.
She says SumbandilaSat paves the way for bigger and better things. "We look forward to implementing our space strategy so that we can join other nations in exploring the myriad possibilities presented by scientific and technological research."
Director-general of Science and Technology, Dr Phil Mjwara, adds that the launch reinforced South Africa's role in national, regional and international space initiatives.
"This is a momentous occasion, not just for the Department of Science & Technology and its partners and stakeholders, but also for the people of South Africa. This launch is a milestone in our efforts to develop and enhance space science and technology in our country."
The satellite carries a high-resolution camera that will produce images for use in monitoring agriculture, mapping infrastructure and land use, tracking population movement, and measuring the water levels of dams.
Data will be streamed to the Council for Scientific & Industrial Research's Satellite Applications Centre (SAC) at Hartbeeshoek, near Pretoria, for analysis and policy development purposes.
The SAC will carry out command and communication functions by tracking the satellite using a large dish antenna.
In addition to the camera, the satellite carries a secondary communication payload from the Department of Communications and experimental payloads for the scientific community in the areas of low-frequency radio waves, radiation, software defined radio, forced vibrating string and radio amateur transponder.