3 The Minister for Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr. Blade Nzimande, is pleased to announce that funding and support from the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) to South Africa’s satellite construction industry is paying off, already that the country is preparing for the launch of the first three satellites of its constellation of Maritime Domain Knowledge Satellites (MDASat).
5 The complete constellation of MDASat will be an operational constellation of nine cubic satellites that will detect, identify and monitor vessels in near real time in support of South African Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA). DSI is implementing this work through the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).
6 The launch of the first three satellites (MDASat-1) comes three years after the launch of the most advanced South African nanosatellite to date, ZACube-2, as a technology demonstrator for the MDASat constellation.
7 “Since its launch in 2018, ZACube-2 has provided state-of-the-art very high frequency (VHF) data exchange communication systems to the country’s maritime industry, as a contribution to Operation Phakisa,” said Dr. Nzimande, and added that DSI had invested R27 million over three years in the development of the MDASat constellation.
8 Although South Africa has been involved, on a relatively small scale, in space activities since the dawn of the space age in 1957, the national space industry requires specialized skills.
9 The Minister pointed out that the lack of space professionals and engineers had led the DSI and its entity, the National Research Foundation (NRF), to initiate a human capital development program at the CPUT under the umbrella of the French Institute of Technology of South Africa (F’SATI). satellite program (CubeSat), with the introduction of a Master of Electrical Engineering focused on satellite systems.
10 “As part of this program, students are taught engineering principles using CubeSats as training tools,” said Dr. Nzimande. “CubeSats are built using the same engineering principles as any other satellite, therefore highly specialized and advanced skills are acquired through this program.”
11 The launch of MDASat-1 will be an important milestone for South Africa, as it will mark the first launch of a fully developed constellation of satellites on the African continent. “This will further cement South Africa’s position as an African leader in small satellite development and help the country capture a valuable part of a niche market in the rapidly growing global satellite value chain,” said Dr. Nzimande .
12 The launch of the three MDASat-1 satellites is scheduled from Cape Canaveral in the United States on Thursday, January 13, 2022 at 5:25 p.m. South Africa Standard Time. This is the latest estimated time and is subject to change depending on weather conditions.