Tech University to launch SA’s first cube satellite


The Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) is set to make history with the launch of South Africa’s first CubeSat, ZACUBE-1.

The launch is set for 21 November 2013 at 09:10:11 (CAT), atop an RS-2OB rocket (Dnepr) at Yasny launch base in Russia.

Running on the same amount of power as a five-watt bulb, ZACUBE-1, a type of nano-satellite, carries a high frequency beacon, which will be used to study the spread of radio waves through the ionosphere, providing valuable space weather data to the Space Science Directorate of the South African National Space Agency (SANSA).

It will orbit Earth up to 15 times a day at an altitude of 600km.

Funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the satellite was designed and built by postgraduate students following the CubeSat Programme at the French South African Institute of Technology (F’SATI) at CPUT in collaboration with SANSA.

The satellite is a single unit carrying a space weather experiment. It is designated “ZA-003” in the national register of space assets, proudly following in the footsteps of Sunsat and SumbandilaSat.

Measuring only 10x10x10cm and weighing 1.2kg, this satellite is about 100 times smaller than Sputnik, the first satellite launched into space in 1957. CubeSats were originally developed in 1999 by California Polytechnic State University and Stanford University in the United States to help universities worldwide perform space science and exploration.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom, said South Africa was gradually demonstrating its capabilities in space science and technology.

“The launch of CubeSat is proof of the skills and the facilities we are gradually developing in the country to ensure space science and technology really benefits every citizen of South Africa,” said Hanekom, adding the data would be very valuable in the related research.

The Director of F’SATI, Professor Robert Van Zyl, said the strength of the CubeSat Programme was its use of CubeSats as technology platforms for practical, hands-on skills training and applied research.

“This approach offers our students a unique learning experience and prepares them very well to participate in the South African space industry.”

Established in 2009, the CubeSat Programme has graduated 32 master’s students, bringing to 42 the total number of F’SATI Alumni at CPUT. The programme has also provided internships to 15 of the graduates as engineers-in-training.


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