SA firm aims for space

2010-10-11 08:53

Cape Town - While South Africans gaze at the stars, at least one company believes that we can reach them, and has a plan to launch SA into space by 2015.

"We have to get involved in space. Once you have the technology, you can sell the technology - obviously to the right people," Marcom managing director Mark Comninos told News24 at the South African Space Association's first annual conference in Cape Town.

The conference, held during International Space Week, seeks to bring together astronomy and space professionals to collaborate, said organiser Carla Sharpe.

Comninos is convinced that SA has the potential to develop commercial space flight and believes that the success of satellite projects like SumbandilaSat illustrates that SA can create a space industry.

"We've calculated about R5m for the development engine and about R250m to get to space by 2015," said Comninos.

Foreign services

He is focused on the South African market and would like companies like MultiChoice to invest in satellite development.

"We interested in several markets, but we'll focus on the local market first. It would be ideal if a company that delivers direct to home TV services like MultiChoice invests in this."

He said that because a large percentage of these TV services are dependent on foreign satellites, companies who invested in launch capability could not only help foster national pride, but also save money in the longer term.

He did not rule out foreign funding for his ambitious project.

"Foreign funding is fine, but it will have to be approved first," said Comninos.

He insisted though, that developing local space launching capability could improve nation building, spur technological development and put SA in a position to drive economic growth from a launch programme in Africa.

"I'm an engineer and I remember seeing the first launch of the space shuttle and I thought: That’s what I want to do. And we can inspire the next generation of engineers."


His plan may sound ambitious, even though scientists at the CSIR's Satellite Application Centre seem to contradict him.

Earth Observation Manager Corne Eloff told News24 recently that it would take about 20 years to establish South Africa's launch programme, but they nevertheless have ambitions for local space launches.

"My dream is to say South Africa can create an (space) industry. We can create prestige on the African continent to stimulate our bright engineers or we'll lose them," said Eloff.

Comninos, though, remains bullish about the prospect for a South African launch programme, hinting that being a producer may hold long term benefits.

"It's better to build the iPhone than buy the iPhone."

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  • robgun - 2010-10-11 09:41

    I would rather see my tax money being spent on projects like this rather than purchasing weapons which would otherwise inevitably become obsolete or be used against another living being.

  • BeenThereDoneIt - 2010-10-11 10:37

    These guys obviously have absolutely no idea at all what it entails to design a space-capable rocket system. R5m development costs! You've gotta be joking. And then we are not even talking about the Americans who would not allow this to happen ...

  • Vusi Pappas - 2010-10-11 10:44

    That would be great for south africa to be able to creat a space industry and it would boost our economy and creat jobs and put us on the map. MTN, VODACOM CELL C AND ALL INTERNET RELATED INDUSTRY HAVE TO BE CONSULATED ABOUT THIS. THIS WILL BE GREAT NOT IN A BUSINESS TERM ONLY BUT FOR THE YOUNG OF SA. MAY THE LORD HELP YOU WITH THIS IDEA AND BY 2015 WE ACHIEVE IT

  • Spyti K - 2010-10-11 11:22

    Finally, a Saffer that gets it! Can we get this guy some Government funding, because this is an important thing.

  • kosta - 2010-10-11 13:16

    It all sounds good. But do not forget that in South Africa samething that can work will be stopped by red tape or after a while voiced will be raised to nationalise it as well. Everybody should be carefull when starting a new thing as it will be NATIONALISED. The people ot this country do not have visions or have the brains to look into the future, but instead only thinking stupid. Thiose that manage to get samething of the ground well good luck to you...

  • CTC - 2010-10-11 16:55

    No reason why we can't get to space. We've proved with the design and construction of the world class Gautrain and the World Cup stadia that we've got the engineers and the technology to compete with the rest of the engineering world. Would definitely benefit SA in the long term

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