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Tuesday, 21 November 2017

TshepisoSAT, Africa’s first CubeSat, turns 4

GROUNDBREAKING: At four years TshepisoSAT has far exceeded the average lifespan  of a typical CubeSat GROUNDBREAKING: At four years TshepisoSAT has far exceeded the average lifespan of a typical CubeSat

Today (21 November) marks four years since the launch of CPUT’s TshepisoSAT (code named ZACUBE-1) from Yasny Launch Base in Russia.

“At four years, ZACUBE-1 has far exceeded the average lifespan of a typical CubeSat, and demonstrates the unique capabilities of the CPUT satellite development team,” says Prof Robert van Zyl, Director of the French South African Institute of Technology (F’SATI) and the Africa Space Innovation Centre.The launch of TshepisoSAT was an historic event that has led to a cascade of developments spearheaded by the F’SATI

They include the development and marketing internationally of advanced CubeSat radio systems to an expanding customer base. More than a hundred such systems have been exported, many of which are currently deployed on CubeSats orbiting in space. Cutting-edge technologies for ship tracking and forest fire detection are also being developed by the team in partnerships with leading South African companies.

The F’SATI team is currently working on ZACUBE-2, which will be launched in May 2018. This mission is funded by the Department of Science and Technology and the South African National Space Agency, and will be the most advanced South African CubeSat to date. The satellite is a precursor mission for constellations of CubeSats that will provide maritime communications in support of Operation Phakisa. The satellite ground station on the roof of the DEECE building will be upgraded in preparation for the launch of ZACUBE-2.

CPUT is also recognised internationally as a hub for CubeSat development and operations. PlanetLabs, a US-based global player in the CubeSat industry, has recently contracted the university to provide ground support for its missions. PlanetLabs manages more than 200 CubeSats in space and requires ground support from stations dotting the globe. “The technical support we provide to PlanetLabs missions will provide fertile ground for learning. We’re also ensuring a third stream income for the university through providing services to industry,” says Van Zyl.

If you are interested in joining the dynamic F’SATI team, please contact Ian van Zyl. We offer undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate training in our state of the art laboratories.

Written by Abigail Calata