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South Africa is launching a new satellite to monitor our seas

Artist’s impression of TshepisoSat, Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).

Source: Sarah Wild (www.businessinsider.co.za)

The South African National Space Agency (Sansa) has put out a call for South Africans to name its latest satellite. Currently called ZACube-2, the satellite is expected to be launched later this year, but first, it needs a new name.

The competition is open to Grade 4 to 12 learners across the country. CubeSats are nanosatellites, which can be as small as 10cm wide, weighing 1kg. The ZACube-2 comprises three 10cm cubes and will be in orbit about 600km above the surface of the Earth.

It was designed and built mainly by postgraduate students at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s French South African Institute of Technology, which has been spearheading South Africa’s CubeSat capabilities. The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is the primary funder of the country’s CubeSat ambitions.

South Africa’s first CubeSat, ZACube-1 also known as TshepisoSat, was launched in 2013. A grade 9 learner from the Eastern Cape chose the name Tshepiso, which means promise.

Head of communications at Sansa, Vaneshree Maharaj, said that the naming competition allowed future scientists and engineers to play a part in a national satellite mission. “This competition ensures our future scientists and engineers become aware of such technological developments,“ she said.

A fraction of the cost of traditional medium-sized satellites, South Africa has been eyeing nanosatellites as an area to develop its space capabilities and develop high technology skills.

ZACube-2 is the first of many CubeSats planned for the Marine Domain Awareness programme, Operation Phakisa. The country has plans for a constellation of nanosatellites to monitor itsoceans.

This pathfinder satellite’s main payload is an automatic identification system, which will collect navigational data from ships along the coast. With this data, authorities will be able to track ships in our waters.