State owned aerospace and defence company Denel’s space division, Spaceteq, is busy working on a new earth observation satellite for the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) but is also talking to potential foreign customers about building satellites to meet their needs.
Spaceteq is a Denel Dynamics’ newest business unit, having been set up last year after the transfer of satellite manufacturer SunSpace to the Department of Science and Technology (DST) through SANSA.
Patrick Ndhlovu, General Manager of Spaceteq, pointed out past experience with space projects. As part of apartheid South Africa’s Space Programme, Houwteq near Grabouw in the Western Cape was tasked with building the Greensat observation satellite. Significant progress was made before the project was terminated in 1994.
Since then, Stellenbosch University built the SunSat satellite which was launched in 1999 and later SunSpace built SumbandilaSat, which was launched in 2009. These satellites were launched in the United States and Kazakhstan respectively. When SunSpace ran into financial difficulties, it was taken over by the DST in July 2013 and absorbed into Denel Dynamics to become Spaceteq in September of that year. Tsepo Monaheng, CEO of Denel Dynamics, said that Spaceteq was in the right place. “It couldn’t have gone anywhere but to Dynamics.”
Initiatives like the cubesat programme between the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and the French South African Institute of Technology (F’sati) are helping alleviate and are assisting in Human Capital Development through their space related education programmes, Spaceteq said. The cubesat programme, run in collaboration with SANSA and funded by the DST, resulted in the Zacube-1 micro satellite being launched in November 2013.
The government is investing in space technology and is planning to increase satellite imagery data for resource management and data monitoring. As a result, Spaceteq is developing the high resolution multispectral imaging satellite, EA-SAT-1, which will be used for urban planning and development, safety and security, disaster management and food security. The company is using much of the existing space facilities at Houwteq and Overberg to support the effort.
Although Spaceteq’s main aim is to serve South Africa’s interests and its revenue is internal, it is open to export contracts. Monaheng said that Spaceteq is already in a position to deliver satellite solutions and respond to international and external requests. He said Spaceteq was engaging with other countries who want satellite solutions.