South Africa’s Space Program, Ian van Zyl

South Africa has a space program?

YES! At our 27.10. meeting, Ian van Zyl of the Satellite Systems Engineering Department at CPUT gave us interesting insights.

Small Satellites are designed and constructed by CPUT post graduate engineering students in a state of the art facility near Grabouw (Houtek) which includes a laboratory and a clean-room for integration of the various modules that make up the satellite (power supply, stability and control units, transmitters, receivers, cameras, scientific payloads). In collaboration with a French University and the Department of Science and Technology, CPUT has created a platform to train engineers in the development and manufacture of satellites to carry scientific payloads for research.

The satellites are surprisingly small and include the ZA CUBE which is a 10 cm cube weighing ~1 Kg and the 3U, a 3 kg unit. These satellites can be used for applications ranging from earth observation, communications, monitoring (eg weather) and carrying a variety of remote sensors. The satellites can be launched using any number of international launch facilities. Once in orbit, information gathered by the satellite is transmitted to a network of ground stations where the information can be collected, processed and analysed.

While satellites could be bought on the international market, this facility can produce a satellite in 9 months for the extremely competitive price of R 500,000. This is a fantastic achievement and turnaround time. At the same time it grows local scientific capability, promotes interest in Satellite design and construction and motivates bright young students to pursue scientific excellence. Awesome!

Herbert Arnold, RC am Kap

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