A Kondor-E earth observation satellite being transported at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (TsEnki)
Johannesburg - A satellite, which the Democratic Alliance says could be part of South Africa’s spy programme ‘Project Flute’, launched this morning from Kazakhstan.
Fin24 reported on Wednesday about how the DA’s shadow minister for defence, David Maynier, questioned whether the Kazakhstan-launched satellite is in fact part of Project Flute.
The DA said Project Flute refers to Defence Intelligence’s secret R1.4bn contract with Russian company NPO Mashinostroyenia to develop a Kondor-E radar imaging satellite. The contract was initially signed on May 19 2006, according to the DA.
The political party has also said the project is “an open secret” and that South Africa’s Secretary of Defence, Dr Sam Gulube, “conceded” at a meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans on October 22 2014 that there was a contract to develop a “military satellite” and that the contract was “on track”.
Meanwhile, the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos planned for a Kondor-E “earth observation satellite” to be launched, using a Strela rocket, at 07h55 Moscow time (06h55 South African time) on Thursday, December 18 2014.
Reports, however, say a technical issue pushed the satellite launch forward to Friday morning.
Fin24 on Friday contacted South African government defence spokespeople regarding the DA statements on the issue, but the state officials provided no comment on the matter.
"We know that Project Flute exists; we know that it's a Defence Intelligence project; we know that there's a contract between Defence Intelligence and NPO Mashinostroyenia to develop a Kondor-E satellite,” Maynier told Fin24.
"What we don't know is whether the Kondor-E satellite that launched this morning (Friday) is Defence Intelligence's Kondor-E satellite which was part of Project Flute.
“To prove that is a challenge going forward,” he said.
Maynier told Fin24 that his next step is to get government's reply to an application he submitted for a copy of a special report on Project Flute. The special report was produced by the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence following an investigation by the Auditor-General in 2009 and 2010.
The DA in a statement on Friday also wants to know why the Kondor-E spy satellite allegedly “incurred more than R200 million in fruitless and wasteful expenditure”.
Kondor-E: Years in the making
There have been only two launches of the Kondor-E satellite, according to reports.
The first launch is said to have happened in 2013 for the Russian Ministry of Defence.
"This is the second launch of a Kondor-E satellite,” Maynier told Fin24.
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