Happy birthday to South Africa’s first nano-satellite! The little guy, known as TshepisoSAT, has officially survived one year in space, making his way around earth about 15 times a day – and has in the process traveled more than 250 million kilometres.
Taking off from the Yasny Launch Base in Russia last year, it is on a 6 billion kilometer mission to provide valuable space weather data to the South African National Space Agency’s (SANSA) Space Science Directorate.
The nano-satellite, which weighs 1.2kg and measures 10cm3, was designed and built by Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) postgraduate students participating in the Satellite Systems Engineering Programme at the French South African Institute of Technology (F’SATI), in collaboration with the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) and funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the National Research Foundation (NRF).
“We are currently concentrating efforts on deploying the nano-satellite’s main antenna that is connected to the high-frequency beacon, which will be used to study the propagation of radio waves through the ionosphere, providing valuable space weather data to the SANSA Space Science Directorate and to enable improved space weather modelling and forecasts,” said Director of the CPUT space program, Prof Robert van Zyl.
Dr Peter Martinez, the Chairperson of the South African Council for Space Affairs, said that by building our first nano-satellite over a year ago, shows what we are capable of, and also paves the way to developer better technology in the future.
“The nano-satellite is testament to the skills in South Africa and its development has been instrumental in creating opportunities for science advancement, as well as human capacity development. The odds are against you when you launch a nano-satellite, but CPUT got it right, and this is a major achievement,” says Martinez.
The satellite is about 100 times smaller than Sputnik 1 (the first satellite launched into space in 1957) and took 18 months and 30 000 hours of manpower to build. The end result was a satellite that contains 4 000 electronic components and runs on the same amount of power as a 3-watt light bulb.[Source – CPUT]