Second South African nanosatellite launched

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South Africa’s most advanced nanosatellite to date – ZACube-2 – was launched from Siberia in Russia as part of the Soyuz Kanopus mission late in December.

Government news agency SAnews has it that the 4 kg satellite will provide “cutting edge remote sensing and communication services” to South Africa and the adjacent region. It is regarded as the most advanced nanosatellite on the African continent.

“This satellite will help us monitor ocean traffic as part of our oceans economy and also monitor veld fires and provide near real-time fire information ensuring a quick response time by disaster management teams.

“Science is helping us resolve the challenges of our society. I want to congratulate our space team for great work and this achievement,” Science and Technology Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said in a statement.

The Minister was proud that the satellite was developed by some of South Africa’s youngest and brightest minds as part of a programme representing the country’s diversity, in particular black students and young women.

According to the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the satellite is a technology demonstrator for Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) that will provide critical information for the country’s oceans economy.

It will monitor movement of ships along the South African coastline with an automatic identification system (AIS) payload.

ZACube-2 took off at 04:07am on December 27 with the Russian Soyuz Kanopus mission from Vostochny spaceport. The cube satellite left Earth along with small satellites from the US, Japan, Spain and Germany and was orbited as secondary payload in a launch mission designed for realtime monitoring of natural and manmade disasters and other emergencies, DST said.

The satellite is also fitted with a camera to detect veld fires.

ZACube-2 is South Africa’s second nanosatellite in space and three times the size of its predecessor, TshepisoSat. It is a precursor to the MDASat, a constellation of nine nanosatellites that will be developed to provide cutting-edge very high frequency data exchange communication systems to for maritime industry.



The name ZACube-2 will be short-lived for South Africa’s second satellite. A national satellite naming competition run by the SA Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) received more than 300 suggestions from Grade four to 12 scholars. According to DST, the result has been finalised and the new name of the nanosatellite will be announced “in due course”.