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Hi-tech satellite components manufactured by students at Stellenbosch University are soon to be sold internationally.

The CubeSat satellite components were manufactured by post-graduate students and engineers in the university’s electronic systems laboratory.

Left CubeComputer, Upper Middle CubeTorquer, Lower middle is the CubeWheel a momentum wheel for a CubeSat that we are in the process of testing before marketing as well. Credit: INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

The CubeSat satellite components manufactured include an attitude sensor board called CubeSense (used in establishing a satellite’s orientation in relation to the earth), an on-board computer known as CubeComputer, and Cubetorquer rods for altitude control (used in controlling the satellite’s orientation).

The products were developed at the laboratory under the supervision of Professor Herman Steyn, who is the satellite engineering specialist and head of the university’s electrical and electronic engineering department.

Steyn said the university would sell the parts to any country, but mainly to universities and small companies that were involved in CubeSat research.

The Surrey Space Centre in the UK, which is renowned in space engineering, has bought two CubeSense units and six CubeTorquers.

Two CubeComputers have been sold to Denel Dynamics and a CubeComputer has been bought by Innovative Solutions In Space in the Netherlands.

Pieter Botma, who was responsible for the design and development of the CubeComputer, said he was “very excited” about the achievement.

“We at the (laboratory) feel very proud of the research we are doing and the CubeSat products we are delivering. We are very fortunate to work under the guidance of the staff of the (laboratory), of Stellenbosch University, and especially Professor Herman Steyn,” Botma said.

“Most of all, we are very grateful for the opportunity to work on these very challenging and exciting projects.

“We believe these products will be successful. They are built upon the previous satellite design heritage at the (laboratory). They are thoroughly researched, designed and developed and (continually) tested and improved.”

The CubeSense is priced at €4 600 (R47 272), the CubeComputer at €4 500 (R46 244) and the CubeTorquer at €600 (R6 165). The cost of manufacture is 60 percent of the price. Fifteen percent goes to marketing the components and the profit is 25 percent. Steyn said the profits would be used for further satellite research in the university’s systems laboratory. - Cape Argus

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