Russia to launch SA’s spy satellite

The news site www.russianspaceweb.com carries a report on the Kondor-E, a top secret spy satellite for South Africa’s defence department.

Under the headline “Russia to orbit South-Africa’s first spy satellite”, it claims that South African defence intelligence “planned to use the satellite for various surveillance goals, including battlefield reconnaissance”.

It confirms that the satellite would be capable of providing all-weather, day-and-night radar imagery for the military.

The report further speculates on the location of a possible ground station to monitor the satellite.

“It is still unclear where exactly the ground station for Kondor-E was located in South Africa, or even whether it had ever been built.”

It says the two best “candidate sites” are the SA National Space Agency’s Hartesbeeshoek facility, or the Overberg Test Range near Arniston, operated by Denel.

By December 12, Kondor-E was loaded with propellant at Site 31 and transferred to Site 2A for the final preparation for launch, TSENKI announced. At the time, the launch was promised in the second half of December 2014. According to Roskosmos, the launch of the spacecraft identified as Kondor-E No. 2 would take place on Dec. 18, 2014, at 07:55:03 Moscow Time from Site 175 in Baikonur.

The defence department was not immediately available for comment.

Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier said in a statement: “We cannot be sure, but the Kondor-E satellite, which will be launched at 6.55pm SA time, may be defence intelligence’s secret Russian Kondor-E ‘spy satellite’, developed under ‘Project Flute’.”