The South African government is examining the space agencies of India, South Korea and Nigeria as it develops its own organisation, expected to begin operations in the third quarter of 2007, writes Rob Coppinger. Details of its structure and staffing will be revealed by the end of the year.

Government officials hope the new agency will give its programme more focus. They also want to expand aeronautics research to support space goals.

The South African space programme currently includes astronomy and a micro-satellite programme. "This [agency] might lead to larger spacecraft. We have been a procurer of space assets [before] and the plan is to change that," says Pontsho Maruping, chief director of the South African government's department of science and technology's frontier programme responsible for the country's satellite programme.

To be launched from a Russian submarine in December, the recently named 80kg (175lb) Sumbandilasat micro-satellite will demonstrate high-resolution remote sensing from a 500km (310 miles) orbit.

Sumbandilasat is part of a multi-million dollar, three-year integrated national space programme.

Source: Flight International