South Africa’s aspirations for a top spot in the space science race is soaring as the country’s first home made nano space satellite is set to launch from Russia in the next three months.
Recently the country basked in global limelight after it won the lion’s share of the co-hosted Square Kilometre Array radio telescope project, a global research hub it would share with Australia.
The SKA is said to be one of the biggest scientific projects in human history.
Last year, the country launched the SA Space Agency (SASA), a sign of South Africa’s commitment to pursuing space science and developing science engineering graduates.
Now the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology, has designed and made the country’s first nano satellite which is to be launched into space from Russia in November.
CPUT will be hosting a send-off ceremony for their satellite as it leaves by ship for Russia today.
Dubbed ZACube-1, the satellite was made by postgraduate students of the French South African Institute of Technology (F’SATI) in Bellville at a cost of R30 million.
The satellite is 10cm cubed and weighs 1.2 kilogrammes.
Director of the F’SATI programme, Professor Robert van Zyl, said ZACUBE-1 was a “significant milestone for South Africa”.
“The human capacity development, technology innovation and science borne from ZACUBE-1 far exceeds its size and will motivate and inspire future young generations to reach for the stars.”
Once in space for an expected operational life span of between three and five years, ZACUBE-1 would be used for space science experiments and its activities would be monitored by the ground station at F’SATI’s Bellville premises.
Government and industry relations manager in the Department of Science and Technology, Siyabonga Copisa, ZACUBE-1, together with SKA and SASA, was becoming a global leader in space science.
He said the completion and launch of ZACUBE-1 should encourage and inspire youngsters to study sciences at school as the students who were involved in the making the satellite would be employed at either SASA or the SKA project.
He said it was vital that the country develops its own science engineers to avoid importing foreign skills.