Science, innovation dept invests R18.9m in nanosatellites

The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) has invested Rs 18.9 million in the development of two nanosatellites that will be used to raise awareness of marine domains in South Africa.

The investment is the first initiative in the country to provide satellite communication services to the maritime industry.

Funding was channeled through the Agency for Technological Innovation (TIA), a DSI entity, to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), an institution that plays a role in the expansion of space science and technology in South Africa. The university has developed state-of-the-art nanosatellites and CubeSats over the years, demonstrating advanced technological capabilities in the country’s space industry.

Minister of Science and Innovation Nzimande blade, in a statement issued on March 25, revealed that the two nanosatellites in the marine industry will be powered by M2MSat technology, in the form of state-of-the-art software-defined high-resolution (VDES) machine-to-machine (M2M) communication.

He further stated that 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 far-reaching benefits.

“South Africa needs a more strategic and coordinated approach to ensure optimal monitoring of coastal waters, including shipping within the country’s exclusive economic zone. [It] it will promote improved awareness of maritime domains and enhanced maritime security, “Nzimande said.

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

Developed as a collaboration between CPUT and local company Stone Three Communications, M2MSat technology advances modern space innovation, significantly improving CPUT’s ZACube-2 nanosatellite technology launched in 2018.

“In the context of South Africa, 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 Nzimande.

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

Meanwhile, plans are being drawn up to develop Denel’s Overberg test range in Western Cape as a launch facility for future CubeSats developed by CPUT.

Earlier this month, researchers and students from the KwaZulu-Natal University Aerospace Systems Research Group successfully launched two hybrid rockets as part of the Phoenix hybrid sounding rocket program.

One of the test missiles flew 17.9 km in the air, reaching a new African hybrid altitude record. The second missile made an altitude of over 10 km with a payload of CPUT.