Nanosatellites to boost SA maritime security

The Ministry of Science and Innovation (DSI) has invested RN 18.9 million in the development of nanosatellites to raise awareness of marine domains – first in the provision of communication services for the maritime sector.

The DSI, also known as the Ministry of Science and Technology (DST), said in a statement that South Africa needed a “more strategic and coordinated approach to ensure optimal monitoring of coastal waters, including shipping in the exclusive economic economy of the country. zone ”.

This will promote better awareness of maritime domains and “improve maritime security”, one of the components of Operation Fakissa to boost South Africa’s blue water economy, launched by former President Jacob Zuma in 2014.

Funding for marine nanosatellites has been channeled through the Agency for Technological Innovation (TIA), DSI, to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), a leading player in South Africa’s growing space science and technology. Prior to that, the university developed nanosatellites and cube satellites (CubeSats), demonstrating modern technological capabilities.

The pair of nanosatellites from the marine industry will be powered by M2MSat technology, in the form of an advanced VHD data exchange system (VDES), software-defined machine-to-machine (M2M) radio stations.

A software-defined radio system (SDR) uses software to modulate and demodulate radio signals, performing significant amounts of signal processing on a general-purpose computer. The technology brings flexibility, cost efficiency and power to propel communications forward, with broad benefits.

Innovative SDR technology will provide emerging M2M and Internet of Things applications capable of providing complex analysis and ubiquitous positioning of high-value assets, as well as mission-critical services, at a lower cost than traditional satellite deployments.

Developed jointly by CPUT and local company Stone Three Communications, M2MSat technology is advancing in space innovation, enhancing CPUT’s ZACube-2 nanosatellite technology released in 2018.

“In the South African context, the space industry ecosystem – including support for space engineering programs, human capacity development, infrastructure investment and technological innovation – is part of the high-end infrastructure sectors that are crucial to the country’s economic recovery,” said DSI.

“The development and commercialization of the M2MSat platform will position South Africa as a key contributor to space innovation worldwide, power in the space value chain, growing partnerships with industry and rapidly tracking the creation and exploitation of space knowledge and innovation,” the statement.

In December 2018, Russia’s Soyuz rocket launched the 4-kilogram ZACube-2 satellite, the forerunner of the nanosatellite constellation created by CPUT and its consortium over the next few years. The constellation will be used by DSI and the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) as part of Operation Phakisa. Ship tracking satellites will form the constellation MDASat (satellite for sea domain awareness) of nine nanosatellites. Nearly 100 million R100s have been allocated to the project over five years, with DSI investing 16.5 million RAC in ZACube-2 and an additional R27 million allocated between 2019 and 2021. At the end of 2019, CPUT completed a preliminary review of the MDASat constellation project.

ZACube-2 demonstrates automatic ship identification system (AIS) and medium-resolution payload technologies. The satellite is operated by DSI and the National Space Agency SA (SANSA), in collaboration with the University of Montpellier, the French Embassy and the Paris Chamber of Commerce. The satellite program has completed more than 60 master’s students and developed a set of communication products sold internationally through Amaya Space. Amaya Space sells components in the global nanosatellite market through its Scottish distribution partner, Clyde Space (now AAC Clyde Space). Other technology partners include CSIR, CubeSpace, Denel Spaceteq, Stone Three, Stellenbosch University, Luvhone Engineering and Consultants and Astrofica.

DSI is working, the statement said, to “develop Denel’s Overberg Test Range (OTR) in the Western Cape as a means to launch future CubeSats developed by CPUT.”

Earlier this month, researchers and students from the KwaZulu-Natal University’s Aerospace Systems Research Group successfully launched a hybrid rocket as part of the Phoenix hybrid sound rocket program.

The successful launch showed that the rocket traveled 17.9 km in the air, achieving a new African hybrid record for altitude.