SA readies latest ocean-watching satellite for launch

Science and Technology Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane will unveil South Africa's most sophisticated satellite on Tuesday ahead of its launch in India in July.

The nanosatellite, dubbed ZACUBE-2, was developed by Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and the French South African Institute of Technology as a follow-up to the previous nanosatellite, ZACUBE-1, which was launched from Yasny Launch Base in Russia.

At 4kg, ZACUBE-2 is significantly heavier than ZACUBE-1, which weighed 1.2kg. It is the fourth satellite which SA has launched.

Its dimensions are also larger than ZACUBE-1 at 10cm x 10cm x 30cm and it will circle Earth 550km up in a polar orbit.

READ: SA could lead on micro satellites, says Sansa

Kubayi-Ngubane will attend the launch of ZACUBE-2 later this year.

Department of Science and Technology said the nanosatellite was a "precursor to future nanosatellites expected to constitute the next satellite constellation to be launched by the South African government in the framework of Operation Phakisa blue economy programme".


Developed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), ZACUBE-2's imager payload will track forest fires as well as boats off South Africa's coast.

It will receive signals from the ship's Automatic Identification System which will enable authorities to track the position of local and foreign vessels in SA's coastal waters.

READ: SA university gears up for satellite launch

The department said that the cost of the launch was R3m and as the funders of the project, the department had already spent R14.7m so far.

The flagship human capital development programme involved 18 engineers and technicians, produced 59 Masters graduates and four PhD graduates as part of the push to develop local technical and engineering skills.

These are satellite engineers in training as part of the human capital development programme. (Department of Science and Technology)

"Sansa strives to grow the local space industry through product, services and skills development. Supporting such programmes as ZACUBE-2, enables the country to benefit from trained and experienced young space engineering experts," said South African National Space Agency (Sansa) CEO, Dr Val Munsami.

Sansa manages the satellite programme in conjunction with the University of Montpellier, the French Embassy and the Paris Chamber of Commerce.

ZACUBE-2 will remain in CPUT's clean room until the end of May before it will be shipped to India for launch.

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