South Africa is launching a new satellite to monitor our seas


Image: Artist impression of TshepisoSat. (CPUT)

The South African National Space Agency (Sansa) has put out a call for South Africans to name its latest satellite. ZACube-2, as it is currently called, 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 put 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 is the major 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.

Vaneshree Maharaj, head of communications at Sansa, says that naming competition “ensures our future scientists and engineers become aware of such technological developments and allows them to play a part in a national satellite mission”.

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 a number of cubesats planned for the Marine Domain Awareness programme of Operation Phakisa. The country has plans for a constellation of nanosatellites to monitor the country’s oceans.

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.

Source: Sarah Wild (