CAPE TOWN - The three locally-produced nanosatellites launched into space as part of Elon Musk's SpaceX Transporter-3 mission are successfully transmitting data.
The first Maritime Domain Awareness Satellite constellation (MDASat-1) was launched from Cape Canaveral in the US, aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket at 5:25pm on Thursday.
The satellites were deployed in low earth orbit at an altitude of 525km.
The full MDASat constellation will be an operational constellation of nine cube satellites that will detect, identify and monitor vessels in near real-time in support of South African maritime domain awareness.
CPUT Vice-Chancellor Prof Chris Nhlapo congratulated engineers from the university’s African Space Innovation Centre (ASIC) and had watched the launch live with them at the ground station in Bellville.
The nanosatellites were built at the institution's laboratories in Bellville.
“This was the biggest satellite project to date. There are many other projects in the pipeline so it is a big niche area. So I say watch this ‘space’,” he said.
“We are a university of technology and we must dominate in the applied science space. Our research must benefit the people of SA. That is why we want to encourage more undergraduate and post-graduate study in this growing field so that the country can keep developing its capacity.”
Acting Chief Engineer on the project, Nyameko Royi, says each satellite will initially make an average of four passes per day but that will steadily increase.
“As satellites eventually drift further apart we’ll have breaks between overpasses and as they eventually spread further apart we will have an average of 12 passes per day. We are also still tracking previously launched nanosatellite ZACUBE-2, which makes it 16 tracking operations per day. We expect an average of 1883k bytes of data to be generated per pass per satellite,” he said.