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CPUT on the end of satellite SumbandilaSat

South Africa’s satellite SumbandilaSat expires, leaves orbit. Picture: Supplied

South Africa’s satellite SumbandilaSat expires, leaves orbit. Picture: Supplied

Published Dec 13, 2021


Cape Town - The Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) believes missions like SumbandilaSat are the foundation of future space ambitions of the country.

CPUT also said that they respect the work conducted and how it has benefited missions like nanosatellite missions of ZA-Cube 1 and 2, the one that CPUT is involved in.

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This comes after the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) announced the ending of the life of the satellite known as SumbandilaSat in Venda.

The satellite was launched in 2009 and took a total of 1 128 high-resolution, usable images. SumbandilaSat was launched right at the start of the 24th solar cycle when the sun became more active and therefore was exposed to ever-increasing levels of adverse space radiation.

The SumbandilaSat mission not only re-established South Africa as a space-faring nation with an in-orbit small technology demonstrator, but also fostered human capital development.

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CPUT also said that the future of the space programme and future satellites would be determined by stakeholders such as the Department of Science and Technology and industry partners from the South African National Space Agency, South African Agency for Science and Technology and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

CPUT spokesperson Lauren Kansley said ‘’decommissioning missions does not mean that no monitoring of these valuable resources will not be taking place. Rather it means that we can harness new technology and do these observations in an even better way. Monitoring SA’s ocean resources is a major focus of the nanosats being built at CPUT.’’

She added that CPUT institution offers satellite programme under the CPUT French South African Institute of Technology (F’SATI), a leader in the space technology field after its second nano-satellite, ZACube-2, was successfully launched into space and transmits information to the CPUT ground station.

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‘’The CPUT Satellite Programme has already produced well over 60 postgraduate students to support the space industry and through its vibrant innovation hub, The Africa Space Innovation Centre, CPUT spearheads the commercialisation of nano-satellite technologies.

“These developments take place on the Bellville campus which is equipped with the clean-room, production and development areas, state-of-the-art test equipment and a ground station,’’ she said.

Satellites are subjected to radiation associated with space weather events and are affected by radiation events in several ways, which can lead to early termination of their usefulness.

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Chief executive of SANSA, Dr Val Munsami, said that the Sumbandila mission has demonstrated South Africa’s capability in space-engineering and has paved the way for more satellite missions as part of the Space Infrastructure Hub (SIH) currently in development. The SIH will see a suite of different classes of satellites being launched in the coming years, drawing on the heritage created through the Sumbandila mission.

‘’Although we as a nation are saddened to witness the end of this aspirational satellite, this has led to the establishment of the nanosatellite missions of ZACUBE 1 and 2 by CPUT. The satellite constellation will see the addition of a further seven nanosatellites that are in development for support to Operation Phakisa (monitoring of the marine environment and economy),’’ he said.

Weekend Argus