Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) has helped to build a satellite the size of 1-litre water bottle that will be launched into space later this year to keep watch over our coastline.
The Minister of Science and Technology, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, was at a ceremony at the university’s Bellville campus last week to send off the ZACube-2 – Africa’s largest and most advanced cube satellite – to India, where it will be launched in July.
The 4kg ZACube-2 has been developed by CPUT and the French South African Institute of Technology (F’SATI). It is the second nano satellite to be developed at the university.
The project is funded by the Department of Science and Technology and managed by the South African National Space Agency (SANSA).
The ZACube-1 was launched in 2013 for space-weather research, and the experiences gained then through the French-South African cooperation in satellite engineering, led to the completion of ZACube-2.
The satellite will track marine activity along South Africa’s coast and proactively detect forest fires through an imager payload developed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
CPUT spokeswoman Lauren Kansley said future satellites would be developed by CPUT and its consortium over the next four years.
Ms Kubayi-Ngubane welcomed the development of the nano satellite.
She said its primary mission was to demonstrate vessel-tracking services in support of Operation Phakisa – the government’s plan to unlock the economic potential of the country’s oceans.
“The Department of Science and Technology saw an opportunity to contribute to Operation Phakisa by ensuring that the country can monitor its 3 000km coastline effectively,” said Ms Kubayi-Ngubane.
While space science and technology were costly, government could help to create an environment for the local space industry to thrive.
Projects like the ZACube-2 could have knock-on benefits for other industries, she said.
SANSA’s CEO, Dr Val Munsami, said the country “could benefit from trained and experienced young space engineering experts” by growing the local space industry.
CPUT has agreements with both the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Environmental Affairs for the development of nano satellite based solutions for Operation Phakisa. In June 2016, the university launched its Research Chair in Oceans Economy.