Spaceteq moving forward with new satellites


Denel Dynamics division Spaceteq plans to launch its Dynacube-3U satellite within the next couple of years, and is proceeding with the development of the EO-Sat-1 earth observation satellite.

The 10x10x30 cm micro satellite will examine the use of ship Automatic Identification System (AIS) tracking systems from space and evaluate the requirements of interfacing with existing AIS control centres. AIS is an automatic tracking system that automatically broadcasts position, speed, destination and other information. AIS can be used for collision avoidance, fishing fleet monitoring and control, maritime security, cargo tracking, suppression of piracy activities and search and rescue.

The Dynacube-3U satellite is being developed in collaboration with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). It will mainly track vessels along South Africa’s coastline down to the Antarctic.

It will feature a vacuum arc thruster propulsion system, which will be used to orient the satellite in space and deorbit it once it reaches the end of its lifespan, to avoid it becoming space junk. This engine was developed in collaboration with Wits University, which took out three patents in the process. Patrick Ndhlovu, General Manager of Spaceteq, told defenceWeb that the system is locally developed. It relies on the burning of electrodes to create a plasma that provides propulsion, which lasts much longer than conventional rocket fuel.

Launch of the satellite is scheduled for late 2017 or early 2018. It will be launched as a part of a cluster of CubeSats being developed by CPUT.

In 2012 Denel Dynamics interns worked on the Dynacube-1 10x10x10 cm micro satellite that was designed to study the impact of radiation on the earth, particularly the South Atlantic Anomaly. This is where the Earth’s inner radiation belt comes closest to the surface, reaching down to an altitude of 200 km and bringing solar radiation down to that level. Consequently, satellites and spacecraft passing through this region are exposed to strong radiation, which can cause problems. However, this microsatellite was never launched and was more of an academic exercise.

In addition to EO-Sat-1 for the Africa Resource Management Constellation (ARMC), Spaceteq is also offering satellites and satellite solutions to other ARMC member states as well as other clients.

Spaceteq was established in 2013 after the transfer of satellite manufacturer SunSpace to the Department of Science and Technology (DST) through the South African National Space Agency. It is using the intellectual property from the DST, ex-Sunspace personnel and the heritage from work previously done by Houwteq as a foundation on which to build an organisation that will develop satellite systems for the South African government and international clients.