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SA's nanosatellite ready for blast-off

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The ZACUBE-2 nanosatellite soars into space with the Russian Soyuz Kanopus mission.
The ZACUBE-2 nanosatellite soars into space with the Russian Soyuz Kanopus mission.

Today, SA's ZACUBE-2 nanosatellite was launched into space with the Russian Soyuz Kanopus mission from Siberia in Russia.

ZACUBE-2 is the country's second nanosatellite to be launched into space and three times the size of its predecessor, TshepisoSat. Weighing just 4kg, it features an automatic identification system receiver as its main payload through which navigational data would be received.

Funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the satellite project supports Operation Phakisa. The DST's entity, the South African National Space Agency, in cooperation with the University of Montpellier, the French Embassy and the Paris Chamber of Commerce, manages the project.

According to the DST, ZACUBE-2 will be launched together with small satellites from the US, Japan, Spain and Germany.

The department goes on to say the nanosatellite was scheduled for launch from India in June. However, excess capacity induced by primary and secondary payloads on India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle resulted in a delay and an alternative arrangement was made.

Science and technology minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, says: "The launch of ZACUBE-2 represents a significant milestone in the nation's ambition to becoming a key player in the innovative utilisation of space science and technology in responding to government priority areas."

The DST statement adds that the satellite is a technology demonstrator for maritime domain awareness. It will monitor the movement of ships along the South African coastline with its automatic identification system (AIS) payload.

The AIS navigational data will be provided to the South African government in support of its broader Operation Phakisa initiative to grow the maritime economy. The satellite also carries a camera that will detect veld fires from space.

"This is the most technologically advanced nanosat that will provide critical information for our oceans economy. I am particularly excited that the satellite was developed by some of our youngest and brightest minds under a programme representing our diversity, in particular black students and young women."

The ZACUBE-2 will be given a new name soon, following a national satellite naming competition launched in April by the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA), an entity of the science and technology department.

SAASTA, according to the DST, received over 300 entries from learners in grades four to 12. The results have been finalised and the new name of the nanosatellite will be announced in due course.

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