When SAC needed funding to upgrade the Hartebeesthoek station with Ku-band capacity, to secure the Hughes launch support contract for Bonum-1, former CSIR President Dr Geoff Garrett invited Renier Balt and Michelle Le Saux from SAC to present the R15 million funding proposal to the CSIR Board at a meeting in Cape Town. The duo knew that their thorough preparation had paid off when former Board Chairman, Dr Bill Venter, commended them on “one of the best presentations” he had ever heard. They returned to Hartebeesthoek with Board approval and the requested funding for the upgrade.
“We were nervous, but exceptionally well prepared. In line with the work ethos at HBK, our proposal covered every detail, was factually correct, well-practiced and concisely presented. It worked.”
With the funding secured to install the Ku-band ground station, the SAC team encountered two further challenges: a very tight deadline and the assembly of a new European ground station system when SAC’s expertise at the time was based on US systems.
Always galvanised into action by the seemingly impossible, SAC called in Willem Botha and Tasso Karantonis to assist them and the team set to work. With on-the-job training and the team’s usual flair for ingenuity and will to succeed, SAC completed the installation of the 14 m antenna and baseband equipment on budget, on brief and in time for the launch on 22 November 1998.
“Our ability to meet and exceed client expectations always made me proud to be part of the SAC team.”
– Renier Balt