Scandal looms over missing spy satellite

2014-01-19 08:42
DA (Supplied)

DA (Supplied)

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Johannesburg - The Democratic Alliance is determined to unravel the mystery of the whereabouts of a R1.2bn satellite that South Africa commissioned from a Russian company eight years ago.

According to the Sunday Times, the deal was struck in May 2006 and was known as Project Flute. DA MP David Maynier told the newspaper that he suspects the project will turn out to be one of the biggest scandals to hit SA.

He said current and former cabinet ministers need to answer questions around the issue and to say whether there is a reconnaissance satellite in space that was commissioned by SA; who has control over it and what systems are in place to protect the privacy of South African citizens.

The satellite commissioned is a Kondor-E which is often used for spying. It can collect radar images, even at night and through cloud cover, of objects as small as cars.

South Africa has however launched three previous satellites. In November last year a micro satellite built by local experts was launched in Russia. This will focus on collecting data on space weather.

Students at the French South African Institute of Technology Institute (F'SATI) located at CPUT campus in Bellville built the micro satellite with support from the South African National Space Agency (Sansa) and the department of science and technology.

Background on the South African National Space Agency

According to the agency's website, the South African National Space Agency Act, 36 of 2008, "mandated the establishment of a National Space Agency to provide for the promotion and use of space and cooperation in space- related activities, foster research in space science, advance scientific engineering through human capital and support the creation of an environment conducive to industrial development in space technologies within the framework of national government policy."

South African National Space Agency (SANSA) was launched on 9 December 2010 to maximise the use of available resources in the filed and the benefit to society. The agency's six focus areas are:

Earth Observation
Space Operations
Space Science
Space Engineering
Science Advancement and Public Engagement
Human Capital Development

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