South Africa’s first privately owned nanosatellite ready for release


The nSight1 nanosatellite designed and built in South Africa is due to be released from the International Space Station (ISS) into low-Earth orbit on 25 May.

It is one of 28 nanosatellites from 23 different countries launched on 18 April 2017 from Cape Canaveral in Florida, USA aboard a Cygnus cargo spacecraft. It was delivered by an Atlas V rocket to the ISS, which is due to release it at an orbit of between 200 and 400 km, according to SCS Space.

SCS Space, a member of the SCS Aerospace Group, is the primary contractor for nSight1, a joint investment funded by SCS Aerospace Group and Pinkmatter Solutions.

Among the 28 nanosatellites is ZA-Aerosat, designed and manufactured by CubeSpace of Stellenbosch University.

The nSight1 nanosatellite was designed, integrated and tested by a team of engineers from the Space Advisory Company and assembled at NewSpace Systems’ European Space Agency (ESA) certified clean room production facility.

The nSight1 nanosatellite forms part of the European Commission’s QB50 project whose main objective is to design and deploy a network of satellites to study the largely unexplored lower thermosphere. nSight1 therefore carries as one of its three payloads the scientific instrumentation for in-site thermosphere analysis.

Of specific importance to SCS Aerospace Group is the second nSight1 payload which serves the mission objective to allow for the testing of its newly developed ‘SCS Gecko Imager’. The Gecko is an ultra-compact imager and provides RGB imaging at high frame rates, large integrated high-speed data storage and a compact form factor that is optimised for integration with 2U or larger CubeSat frames, SCS said.

The third payload on the satellite was provided by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and covers its patented Radiation Mitigation VHDL Coding Technique.

During the days following the orbit release, the SCS Space ground operations team will be responsible for the mission control of the satellite. This process involves the establishment of contact and a communication link with the nanosatellite from its new ground station situated near Houwteq in Grabouw. Following this, a series of health check procedures of the three payloads will take place and the overall testing of the system performance to ensure full operational status. Successful completion of this commissioning process will allow for the tasking of the satellite in accordance with the mission objectives and operational deployment.

Hendrik Burger, CEO for SCS Space said “The first QB50 payload data will be collected and reported to the prime investigators, von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics. This will be done every second day for the first six months of the satellite in-orbit life.”

The SCS Gecko multispectral imager will take its first photos with the help of the South African Amateur Radio Community who will enhance the download capacity using their distributed home based receivers.
“We are delighted to be a part of this international project which has put South Africa on the international satellite map. Thank you to all our project partners including Pinkmatter Solutions, Space Advisory Company, NewSpace Systems, Stellenbosch University, CubeSpace, Simera Technology Group, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, DeltaV Aerospace, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and the Amateur Radio Society,” said Burger.