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Update on Africa's 1st Satellite constellation built by CPUT

Written by  Friday, 14 January 2022 12:23
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Cape Town, South Africa (SPX) Jan 14, 2022
The Marine Domain Awareness Satellites (MDASat) have already started successfully transmitting data after they were launched aboard US aerospace company SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket yesterday. The mission carried a total of 105 spacecraft, including CubeSats, microsats, PocketQubes and orbital transfer vehicles. CPUT Vice-Chancellor Prof Chris Nhlapo congratulated engineers from the university

The Marine Domain Awareness Satellites (MDASat) have already started successfully transmitting data after they were launched aboard US aerospace company SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket yesterday. The mission carried a total of 105 spacecraft, including CubeSats, microsats, PocketQubes and orbital transfer vehicles.

CPUT Vice-Chancellor Prof Chris Nhlapo congratulated engineers from the university's African Space Innovation Centre (ASIC) in person while watching the launch live with them at the ground station in Bellville.

The VC, along with members of his management team, joined the ASIC team at the laboratories where the nanosatellites were built in Bellville, and the group excitedly tracked the lift-off then watched the MDASat's being deployed about 45 minutes later.

Speaking after the event Prof Nhlapo said it was mission accomplished- for now.

"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 satellites," he says.

This data will be used to secure South Africa's ocean resources amongst other things.

MDASat Specs
The first three satellites of the MDA constellation will carry an upgraded AIS receiver payload from ZACube-2 and will be capable of the following;

+ Over the air upgrades which means software can be developed and uploaded to the orbiting satellite when ready.

+ Raw date: The payload captures raw data and enhances the opportunity for diagnostic testing on signal interference and decoding messages.

+ Long Range AIS: These are two specific channels to be used as uplinks for receiving AIS messages by satellite.

+ More effective messaging scheme: The first generation payload was limited in how it could save data and have it extracted by the ground station. The enhanced data interface will optimize the use of the data transmitter's bandwidth.

These enhancements pave the way for the future MDASat-2's development and launch and minimizes the risk of damage to the current payload.

SpaceX, the company founded by SA born entrepreneur Elon Musk, will be launching the constellation on 13 January 2022 at 17:25pm (Florida time 10:25am).

Members of the media and public can watch the launch live using this link www.spacex.com/ launches the webcast starts about 10 to 15 minutes before lift-off and ends shortly after payload deployment.


Related Links
Cape Peninsula University of Technology
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