South Africa has launched its most advanced nanosatellite– also considered the most advanced in Africa – into space. The satellite will help monitor ocean traffic as part of the oceans economy, as well as monitoring veld fires to provide near real-time information on fires, ensuring a quick response time by disaster management teams.

South Africa launches continents most advanced nanosatelliteThe nanosatellite, ZACube-2, is South Africa’s second nanosatellite to be launched into space and is three times the size of its predecessor, TshepisoSat. Developed at the French South African Institute of Technology (F’SATI), located at Cape Peninsula University of Technological (CPUT) in Cape Town, the cube satellite weighs around 3.5 kilograms and has an estimated lifetime in orbit of two years.

The ZACube-2 took off with the Russian Soyuz Kanopus mission from the Vostochny spaceport in Russia. The satellite left the earth together with small satellites from the United States, Japan, Spain, and Germany. Regarded as the continent’s most advanced cube satellite, the ZACube-2 is a precursor to the MDASat – a constellation of nine nanosatellites that will be developed to provide cutting-edge very high frequency data exchange communication systems to the maritime industry.

According to the Department of Science and Technology, the ZACube-2 will be given a new name soon, following a national satellite naming competition launched in April by the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA), an entity of the department. SAASTA received over 300 entries from Grade 4-12 learners, and the new name of the nanosatellite will be announced “in due course”, the department said.

Science and Technology Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane congratulated the team behind this historic moment, saying the launch of ZACube-2 represents a significant milestone in South Africa’s ambition to become a key player in the “innovative utilisation of space science and technology in responding to government priority areas”.

“Science is indeed helping us resolve the challenges of our society. I want to congratulate our space team for great work and this achievement. I am particularly excited that the satellite was developed by some of our youngest and brightest minds under a programme representing our diversity, in particular black students and young women,” she said.

The Department of Science and Technology’s Deputy Director-General for technology innovation, Mmboneni Muofhe, says that South Africa is aiming to gain “data sovereignty” through the future satellite constellation. “We want to have a constellation of satellites that will orbit the earth, and collect information that is exclusively for our country. Currently we receive data from foreign satellites, now we are hoping to gain ‘data sovereignty’. We can even sell the data we collect.”

Image credit: https://www.gov.za/about-government/contact-directory/mmamoloko-kubayi-ms


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