Die Soyuz-2.1a-draakraket met twee Kanopus-V-afstandswaarnemings satelliete, ZACube-2 en 25 klein vreemde ruimtetuie is vanoggend van die Vostochny-ruimtetuig van stapel gestuur.   Nege minute na die bekendstelling sal die Fregat-verhoog met die ruimtetuig skei van die derde fase van die vuurpyldraer. In ongeveer ‘n uur later sal die Fregat ZaCube-2 en 26 ander satelliete in die baan wentel.
The Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket with two Kanopus-V remote sensing satellites, ZACube-2 and 25 small foreign spacecraft has been launched from the Vostochny spaceport this morning.   Nine minutes after the launch, the Fregat upper stage with all spacecraft will separate from the third stage of the rocket carrier. In about an hour after that, the Fregat will deliver ZaCube-2 and 26 other satellites to the orbit.

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27 Dec 2018

Historic day as SA launches most advanced nanosatellite

Today marks another historic milestone for South Africa with the successful launch into space of the continent’s most advanced nanosatellite to date, ZACube-2, in the early hours of this morning.

The ZACube-2 took off at 04:07am with the Russian Soyuz Kanopus mission from the Vostochny spaceport. The cube-satellite left the earth together with small satellites from the United States, Japan, Spain, and Germany and is orbited as secondary payload in a launch mission designed for real-time monitoring of natural and manmade disasters and other emergencies.

The Minister of Science and Technology Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane congratulates the team behind this historic moment, adding that the launch of ZACube-2 represents a significant milestone in the nation’s ambition to becoming a key player in the innovative utilisation of space science and technology in responding to government priority areas.

The ZACube-2 will provide cutting-edge remote sensing and communication services to South Africa and the region.

The satellite is a technology demonstrator for Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) that will provide critical information for our oceans economy. It will monitor the movement of ships along the South African coastline with its automatic identification system (AIS) payload.

“This satellite will help us monitor our ocean traffic as part of our oceans economy and also monitor veld fires and provide near real-time fire information ensuring a quick response time by disaster management teams. Science is indeed helping us resolve the challenges of our society. I want to congratulate our space team for great work and this achievement,” said Minister Kubayi-Ngubane.

She added: “I am particularly excited that the satellite was developed by some of our youngest and brightest minds under a programme representing our diversity, in particular black students and young women.”

Weighing just 4kg, the ZACube-2 is South Africa’s second nanosatellite to be launched into space and three times the size of its predecessor, TshepisoSat. It is regarded as the continent’s most advanced cube satellite and is in fact a precursor to the MDASat – a constellation of nine nanosatellites that will be developed to provide cutting-edge very high frequency data exchange communication systems to the maritime industry.

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has invested R16, 5 at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) for the project in support of Operation Phakisa. The DST’s entity, the South African National Space Agency (SANSA), in cooperation with the University of Montpellier, the French Embassy and the Paris Chamber of Commerce, manages the project.

In April this year, Minister Kubayi-Ngubane, attended the send-off ceremony and met the team young people who worked on the Zacube-2 at CPUT. At the time, the nanosatellite was scheduled for launch from India, in June 2018. Excess capacity induced by primary and secondary payloads on India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, resulted in a delay and an alternative arrangement was made.

The ZACube-2 will be given a new name soon, following a national satellite naming competition launched in April by the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA), an entity of the DST. SAASTA received over 300 entries from Grade 4-12 learners. The results have been finalised and the new name of the nanosatellite will be announced in due course.


Cubesats are extremely small satellites, in the form of 10 cm cubes and with a mass of up to 1 kg (although there are some made up of two or three such cubes). Developed originally in the US, they are becoming increasingly popular with universities and technological institutes around the world, because of their considerable educational benefits. These tiny satellites have come a long way since Sputnik, the first satellite that was launched in 1957, weighing 83 kg. The success of the CubeSat programme has revolutionised space technology.

Cubesats provide both hands-on experience for engineers and technologists in their design and construction, and, once in orbit, the data needed to support scientific experiments and projects.


VOSTOCHNY SPACEPORT, December 27. /TASS/. The Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket with two Kanopus-V remote sensing satellites and 26 small foreign spacecraft has been launched from the Vostochny spaceport on Thursday, a TASS correspondent reported.

Among foreign spacecraft that will be delivered to the orbit are Japan’s GRUS spacecraft, 12 US Dove satellites, South Africa’s ZACube-2 spacecraft, Spain’s KA Lume-1, Germany’s satellites D-Star ONE (iSat), D-Star ONE (Sparrow) and UWE-4, as well as 8 US Lemur spacecraft.



MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The Soyuz-2.1a rocket with two Russian and 26 foreign satellites lifted off from the Vostochny space center in Russia’s Far East on Thursday, which became the fourth launch from the cosmodrome.

The launch pad at the Vostochny Space Center


The Vostochny cosmodrome is the first civilian spaceport in Russia, designed to prepare and launch spacecraft for scientific, socio-economic and commercial purposes.

It ensures Russia’s independent access to space. Before its construction, there was only the Plesetsk military space center. Civilian launches had to be carried out from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, which Moscow leases from Astana.

The construction of the Vostochny space center near the city of Tsiolkovsky in Russia’s Far Eastern Amur Region began in 2012, in accordance with a presidential decree from November 6, 2007 and an order of the Russian government from January 14, 2009

The cosmodrome is located between the rivers Zeya and Bolshaya Pera, 8,000 kilometers (4,970 miles) from Moscow and 180 kilometers from the city of Blagoveshchensk. Its area is about 700 square kilometers (270 square miles).

The cosmodrome is situated in the safest region of Russia in terms separations and falls of the rocket’s lower stages. All the separated parts are returned to Earth to hard-to-reach and sparsely populated areas and then are disposed.Vostochny is close to major transportation networks such as the Baikal-Amur Mainline and the Chita-Khabarovsk Highway. There is also a large supply of electricity production resources in the region.

The three stages have been defined to put the objects of the Vostochny cosmodrome into operation. Under the first stage, it was planned to create the Soyuz-2 space rocket complex as well as social, engineering and transport infrastructure, including a town for up to 12,000 people.

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What is ZACube-2?

Cubesats are extremely small satellites, in the form of 10 cm cubes and with a mass of up to 1 kg (although there are some made up of two or three such cubes). Developed originally in the US, they are becoming increasingly popular with universities and technological institutes around the world, because of their considerable educational benefits. These tiny satellites have come a long way since Sputnik, the first satellite that was launched in 1957, weighing 83 kg. The success of the CubeSat programme has revolutionised space technology.

Cubesats provide both hands-on experience for engineers and technologists in their design and construction, and, once in orbit, the data needed to support scientific experiments and projects.

ZACube-2 will monitor the movement of ships along the South African coastline with its automatic identification system (AIS) payload. The AIS navigational data will be provided to the South African Government in support of its broader Operation Phakisa initiative to grow our maritime economy. The satellite also carries a camera that will detect veld fires from space.

ZACube-2 was designed and built mainly by postgraduate students at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in conjunction with SANSA as part of the CubeSat programme.


The satellite makes use of the CubeSat form factor and contains a mix of in-house developed and commercial-of-the-self components. Components are sourced from Clyde Space and Innovative Solutions In Space. ZACube-2 is South Africa’s most advanced CubeSat yet.

ZACUBE-2 is a follow-on mission of the ZACUBE-1 of F’SATI (French South African Institute of Technology) at CPUT (Cape Peninsula University of Technology), Cape Town, South Africa (in collaboration with SANSA and Stellenbosch University). ZACUBE-2 is a 3U CubeSat whose payloads include a medium resolution matrix imager and a number of communication subsystems. Imager data will be downlinked using a high data rate S-band transmitter and high gain patch antenna. As the main payload requires nominal nadir pointing for both imaging and data transmission, three-axis stabilization is implemented. The ADCS is provided by the ESL (Electronic Systems Laboratory) of Stellenbosch University and comprises one unit (1U) of the satellite. 1) 2) 3) 4)

Background: In December 2013, African Heads of States and Governments adopted the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy that desires to address Africa’s maritime challenges for sustainable development and competitiveness. This consists of concerted and coherent long-term plans of actions to enhance maritime viability for a prosperous Africa by leveraging the use of novel technologies. 5)

South Africa is dedicated to support this strategy through national initiatives, notably its Operation Phakisa (meaning “hurry up” in Sesotho). Through Phakisa, the South African Government aims to fast track the implementation of its National Development Plan in two key sectors; the oceans economy and e-health. Monitoring maritime activity within the continental shelf forms a critical part of Phakisa.

F’SATI at CPUT and collaborators propose the development of a South African constellation of nanosatellites (MDASat-1) to facilitate South African Marine Domain Awareness (MDA), as required by Operation Phakisa. The MDASat-1 (Marine Domain Awareness Satellite) constellation will support international maritime communications, ranging from the current AIS (Automated Information Service) standard to the new and evolving VDES (VHF Data Exchange Service) standard. The constellation will provide South Africa with security and control of its AIS and VDES maritime data with associated improved control over data cost and access. AIS- and VDES-based value-add services to the international market will, furthermore, translate into significant foreign direct investment levels. This will position South Africa on the international forefront with regards to maritime space communication services, and translate into the socioeconomic development of the region.

CPUT pioneered nanosatellite technology in South Africa and the region, having developed Africa’s first nanosatellite in space – ZACUBE-1 (“TshepisoSAT”). The satellite was launched on 21 November 2013 and is still being operated daily. The satellite is a 1-unit CubeSat that was primarily developed to train students, and to serve as a technology demonstrator of subsystems developed at CPUT. The mission also carries an HF beacon for ionospheric studies, and a low-resolution imager. ZACUBE-2 is the second CubeSat being developed at CPUT. The 3-unit CubeSat will be ready for launch in 2017.

The ZACUBE-i missions are developed within a university environment with its primary mandate of human capacity development. On the other hand, missions such as the proposed MDASat-1 have a distinctly more operational and commercial focus. The broad approach towards implementing the MDASat-1 constellation is to synergize its development with that of the ZACUBE-i missions, specifically ZACUBE-2.

In practical terms, the ZACUBE-2 mission objectives have been aligned with those of MDASat-1 to allow the mission to function as a precursor to the constellation. Building on the existing technology and resource legacy of ZACUBE-1, and leveraging the sustained investment in the ZACUBE-2 program, lower the cost and risk of the technology development of MDASat-1. In return, MDASat-1 will serve as a catalyst for establishing a nanosatellite manufacturing sector in the region, creating jobs and driving further innovation. This synergistic co-existence of research, innovation and commerce, within a tri-helix collaborative framework involving academic institutions, the public and private sectors, is critical to the industrialization of the regional satellite industry where such investments must be weighed against pressing societal needs.

This interplay among the various programmatic entities is illustrated in Figure 1. The CPUT/F’SATI nanosatellite program is a source of skills and innovation for future MDASat-i missions, which reciprocate by providing CPUT/F’SATI with innovation validation and commercialization of its intellectual property.

Maritime vessel tracking services (Ref. 5):

AIS continues to be the primary method of collision avoidance for water transport by implementing an automatic timeslot-based broadcast and listen technology used on vessels to communicate to surrounding ships. The AIS signature contains a unique ID, position, course and speed of the vessel.

AIS only makes use of two channels and although it was initially designed for safety and collision warning, it is now also used for other applications with a wide range of custom messages. In congested areas the two AIS channels are overloaded, resulting in a risk to safety. This is especially true for space-based AIS (S-AIS) services where a larger number of vessels are visible to the satellites.

The future VDES standard, which can be described as ‘next generation’ AIS, is currently under development by IALA (International Association of Lighthouse Authorities). The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) released the draft VDES specification after the World Radio Conference in November 2015. However, this excluded the final specification for the space segment; expected to be finalized by 2018 only.

VDES is being designed to extend these two channels to at least eight and will, specifically, include support for space communications for improved coverage. It includes the separation of position reporting and safety applications from other maritime data applications. Such data applications will be supported by wider bandwidth channels to enable more data-intensive applications; for example, supporting more detailed navigational, weather or radar data. Messages can also be sent via VDES satellites for issuing storm or tsunami warnings.

The SDR platform developed for ZACUBE-2 makes it possible to launch the MDASat-1 constellation even before the final VDES specification is released, and to update protocols and functionality via software over-the-air as the specification evolves.

Technology: Nanosatellite constellation

Mission objectives of ZACUBE-2: To align with the objectives set out in Operation Phakisa, the primary purpose for ZACUBE-2 is to demonstrate AIS message reception using its SDR-based payload. The geographic focus areas of the mission are the coastal waters off Southern Africa. The ZACUBE-2 mission objectives are summarized as follows (Ref. 5):

• Primary mission objectives

– Technology demonstration of AIS message reception using the primary SDR payload

– Human resource development

– Flight heritage for in-house developed hardware.

• Secondary mission objectives

– Technology demonstration of VDES message reception using the primary SDR payload

– Technology demonstration of primary payload participation in full VDES

– Technology demonstration of a low-resolution NIR (Near Infrared) imager payload

– Over-the-air update of primary payload software.

Mission objectives of the MDASat-1 constellation: MDASat-i will be operational nanosatellite constellations to provide VDES maritime domain awareness services, primarily, within the South African coastal waters.

Whereas the focus of both ZACUBE-2 and MDASat-1 will be to collect data and make it available to South African users, the constellation will allow for scalability to a global context capable of accommodating global vessel traffic of up to 88,000 ships, receiving and processing 45,000 active broadcasts a day.

The proposed constellation is required to have a revisit time that will allow vessels in the South African continental shelf to be tracked on an hourly basis. — Due to the emerging nature of the full VDES standard, in-orbit firmware upgrades of the SDR payload will be enabled.



Space in Africa has confirmed the date of the launch of ZACube-2, the most advanced Nanosatellite from Africa. The satellite is scheduled to be launched on December 25, 2018 on Soyuz rocket in Baikonur, Russia.

It was developed by the Satellite Programme of the CPUT French South African Institute of Technology (F’SATI), which is based at the Bellville campus.

“ZACube-2 is a triple unit CubeSat so it is three times the size of its predecessor, which was called TshepisoSat,” says F’SATI director, Prof Robert van Zyl.

The main payload on the satellite is an AIS (automatic identification system) receiver with which navigational data will be received from ships along our coast. This data, which includes the ships’ GPS coordinates, registration information, speed and direction of travel, will assist the authorities to track ship traffic in our exclusive economic zone, and improve the safety of ships. ZACube-2 also carry an advanced camera, which will detect forest and velds fires. ZACube-2 serves as a precursor mission for two future satellite constellations – the one for Maritime Domain Awareness in support of Operation Phakisa and the other a FireSat constellation to track fire on the African continent,” says Van Zyl.

ZACube-2 demonstrate the functioning of two payloads. A Software Defined Radio AIS receiver and a novel Fire Detection Imager. It carries our new X-band payload data transmitter and a high speed version of our S-band transmitter


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